by Gavin GrantFebruary, 2005
As good as it gets
Single-handedly, or with others, Gardner Dozois has edited more than 80 books. In The Best of the Best, a must-have for any short fiction enthusiast, Dozois selects 36 stories from his 20 volumes of The Year's Best Science Fiction. It is an amazing collection, although as Dozois points out in his cogent and concise introduction, no two editors would ever come up with the same list of the "best" stories. "Hell," he writes, "a day earlier or a day later, I might well have come up with a different [list] myself." Dozois' selections range from Ted Chiang's stand-out story of the 1990s ("Story of Your Life"), Terry Bisson's simply told tale of the changing world ("Bears Discover Fire"), Ursula K. Le Guin's look at growing up when gender is a choice ("Coming of Age in Karhide"), Maureen McHugh's heart-breaking, multiple-award winning alternate history ("The Lincoln Train"), all the way to Greg Egan's tale of multiple-dimension dancing mathematics ("Wang's Carpets"). In a "best of" collection such as this, there are no weak links, but if forced to choose, don't miss the stories by Greg Bear, Gene Wolfe, William Gibson, Eileen Gunn, Connie Willis, John Kessel, Molly Gloss and Charles Stross. Dozois also provides detailed story introductions that point readers to further work by these talented writers. It's a hoary old phrase (and a scary thought!), but if you buy only one science fiction anthology this year, this is probably the one to get. Gavin J. Grant runs Small Beer Press in Northampton, Massachusetts.