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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Year's Best Fantasy 5

Year's Best Fantasy 5 edited by David G. Hartwell and Kathryn E. Cramer. New York: Eos, 2005. ISBN: 0-06-077605-6

Here we have a collection competing with Fantasy: The Best of 2004 which I wrote about a few weeks ago. Both collections cover the same period, 2004, so I suppose it's not so terribly surprising that both include a couple of the same stories (“Pat Moore” by Tim Powers and “The Quarry” by Peter S. Beagle) , but you'd think these anthologizers would have ways of keeping tabs on each other, and could at least avoid that kind of repetition.

On the other hand, if both books truly lived up to their titles, they'd have to be identical collections, now wouldn't they? Of course everyone who follows these anthologies knows that the decisions on just what to include are not only subjective, based on the likes and dislikes of the editors, but also on the availability of the stories, and the ability of the editors to get permission to include them.

On the whole, this collection came off better in my view than The Best of book. Leastwise, I found the stories generally more entertaining and readable, by and large. I even agreed—at least mostly—with the opinion of the editors that Gene Wolfe's “Golden City Far,” which concludes the collection, was the best of the lot.

On the negative side, I have to give a thumbs down to Steven Brust for tricking the reader in his otherwise eminently satisfactory tale, “The Man from Shemhasa.” It's not fair to hang the plot on deceiving the reader the way he does. “I left him there with a puzzled look on his face” is not an acceptable way of saying that you just stabbed him up under his jaw. Especially when the reason doesn't seem to have been due to any squeamishness or lack of candor on the part of the first person narrator, but rather to keep you, the hapless reader, in the dark for the time being. The story would have lost much if not most of its suspense otherwise.

Other names you'll probably recognize include Neil Gaiman (better story than the one The Best of editors chose, thankfully), Tanith Lee, Kage Baker and Patricia A McKillip. Plus many more less familiar (to me, at least) for a total of 24 tales in all. Recommended for fans of the genre, or anyone looking for some slightly out of the ordinary reading.

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