Detailed view for the Book: Year's Best Science Fiction, the: First Annual Collection

A collection of the best scifi of 1984.

"Cicada Queen" by Bruce Sterling. Court intrigues abound in this highly stylized, far future techno-medieval world at the crossroads. The author's eye for imaginative detail is remarkable.

"Beyond the Dead Reef" by James Tiptree, Jr. (Alice Sheldon). Spine-tingling science-horror with a diver stranded out beyond a ghostly and ghastly reef. Features one of the most terrifying and palpable images I can recall in science-fiction.

"Slow Birds" by Ian Watson. Speaking of powerful images, the slow birds inhabiting this far future, pastoral Earth are utterly fascinating, along with the strange doom they portend. Wonderful plot, well crafted characters.

"Vulcan's Forge" by Poul Anderson. Curmudgeonly scientist on Mercury has an unusual relationship with his female colleague??and his space probe. Excellent hard science, but alas the plot is predictable.

"Man-Mountain Gentian" by Howard Waldrop. Sumo wrestlers in 2014 find new applications for Zen. Clever, entertaining story with a couple marvelous characters and an appropriately enigmatic, Zen-like finish.

"Hardfought" by Greg Bear. Dozios' preface says it well: "...a brilliant tour-de-force about the interplay between science and history that takes us simultaneously to the far reaches of the universe and deep inside the hearts of our distant descendants--people so changed by the consequence of a millennia-long war that they have become nearly as alien as the enigmatic enemy they fight..." Bear pushes scientific speculation to the imaginative limits.

"Manifest Destiny" by Joe Haldeman. After exercising my brain on "Hardfought", I enjoyed taking a breather with this amusing, cleverly written memoir about fortunes--material and ethereal--in the Old West.

"Full Chicken Richness" by Avram Davidson. Quirky, choppy and above all silly time-travel story about an underachieving entrepreneur.

"Multiples", by Richard Silverberg. If you think dating is tough with only one personality each... As always Silverberg writes with great clarity, but here, his premise seems completely implausible.

"Cryptic" by Jack McDevitt. Skillful combination of mystery, suspense, and science as a bored SETI physicist/administrator gets out of his rut grappling with a cryptic message from space and an equally cryptic warning from a predecessor.

"The Sidon in the Mirror" by Connie Willis. Youthful anti-hero takes on cunning villain to aid damsel in distress in a frontier mining town...on a distant dying sun. The offworld dialect is highly distracting, making the whole thing hard to follow.

"Golden Gate" by R. A. Lafferty. Reality blurs for a man watching a melodrama in a bizarre bar. Although Laffety's idiosyncratic style isn't for me, I did like his description of the villain as having "arms like a python."

"Blind Shemmy" by Jack Dann. Grisly tale about some very literal mind games in a future Paris casino, as two thrill seeking, adversarial gamblers play their hearts out. Literally.

"In the Islands" by Pat Murphy. Young marine biologist in the Caribbean agonizes over the imminent loss of his mutant friend to the sea.

"Nunc Dimittis" by Tanith Lee. (Title from Luke, 2:29: "Now Master, you may let your servant go in peace.") Tanith Lee's brooding, gothic voice speaks hauntingly in this melancholy story of a loyal but aging servant, his streetwise replacement-to-be, and the seductive vampire princess to whom they are drawn. Lee serves up dark reflections on love, mortality, and immortality as seen from each of their three very different perspectives.

"Blood Music" by Greg Bear. A brilliant but appallingly rash researcher allows some of his intelligent, genetically engineered microbes to set up shop in his body. Dire consequences ensue for both him and the universe. More fascinating science from Bear, and a page-turning narrative to boot.

"Her Furry Face" by Leigh Kennedy. Thoroughly disgusting "character" study about a teacher who rapes his orangutan student. How this monkey business got in here qualifies for Best Mystery of 1983. Opposable thumbs down.

"Knight of Shallows" by Rand B. Lee. A troubled man's exciting journey through alternate realities ends up taking a wrong turn on Plot Street.

"The Cat" by Gene Wolfe. Not a big fantasy fan--can't venture a guess on the merits of this one.

"The Monkey Treatment" by George R. R. Martin. Impossible to put down--simultaneously funny and frightening, this story is about a lovelorn 367-pound gourmand who signs up for a rather unique weight loss program. Results, to say the least, are mixed. Ingenious concept (with apologies to Oscar Wilde), witty, fast-paced narrative, perfectly constructed plot, unforgettably ghoulish images. Opposable thumbs up!

"Nearly Departed" by Pat Cadigan. Unremarkable fare about a mind prober probing a dead poet's memories.

"Hearts Do Not in Eyes Shine" by John Kessel. Troubled turn-of-the twenty-first married couple attempts to rekindle their romance by torching their memories of each other.

"Carrion Comfort" by Dan Simmons. Like a Quentin Tarantino film: well crafted disgustingly graphic violence. Creepy cold-hearted senior citizens with psychic powers induce hapless nobodies to commit horrendous crimes--then turn on each other. I could find no redeemable qualities beneath the carnage.

"Gemstone" by Vernor Vinge. The life story of an alien rock moves along at the speed of...well, a rock.

"Black Air" by Kim Stanley Robinson. Disaster closes in on the crippled remnants of the Spanish Armada in the frozen North Atlantic, as seen from the eyes of a spiritually sensitive youth dragooned into service. Similar in structure to Robinson's story from the fourth edition, "Down and Out in the Year 2000", where bit by bit, sentence by sentence, the inevitable doom tightens its grip.

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