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The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Volume 2 PDF, ePub eBook


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Title: The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Volume 2
Author: Gordon Van Gelder
Publisher: Published July 15th 2014 by Tachyon Publications (first published June 23rd 2014)
ISBN: 9781616961633
Status : FREE Rating :
4.6 out of 5

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Fantasy & Science Fiction continues to showcase some of the most famous authors writing in any genre. The magazine jumpstarted the careers of bestselling authors such as Roger Zelazny, Bruce Sterling, and Jane Yolen and continues to champion bold new crossover talents including Paolo Bacigalupi and Ken Liu. Now drawing upon F&SF's impressive history of classic and Fantasy & Science Fiction continues to showcase some of the most famous authors writing in any genre. The magazine jumpstarted the careers of bestselling authors such as Roger Zelazny, Bruce Sterling, and Jane Yolen and continues to champion bold new crossover talents including Paolo Bacigalupi and Ken Liu. Now drawing upon F&SF's impressive history of classic and contemporary tales, this extraordinary companion anthology revisits and expands upon sixty-five years' worth of top-notch fiction. These broad-ranging, award-winning tales appeal to readers of genre fiction and beyond, exploring alternate history, time travel, urban fantasy, virtual reality, modern myth, horror, interstellar travel, epic fantasy, mystery, and space opera. Contents "The Third Level" by Jack Finney "Fondly Fahrenheit" by Alfred Bester "The Cosmic Charge Account" by C. M. Kornbluth "The Anything Box" by Zenna Henderson "The Prize of Peril" by Robert Sheckley "---All You Zombies---" by Robert A. Heinlein "Green Magic" by Jack Vance "The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth" by Roger Zelazny "Narrow Valley" by R. A. Lafferty "Sundance" by Robert Silverberg "Attack of the Giant Baby" by Kit Reed "The Hundredth Dove" by Jane Yolen "Jeffty Is Five" by Harlan Ellison "Salvador" by Lucius Shepard "The Aliens Who Knew, I mean, Everything" by George Alec Effinger "Rat" by J. P. Kelly "The Friendship Light" by Gene Wolfe "The Bone Woman" by Charles de Lint "The Lincoln Train" by Maureen McHugh "Maneki Neko" by Bruce Sterling "Winemaster" by Robert Reed "Suicide Coast" by M. John Harrison "Have Not Have" by Geoff Ryman "The People of Sand & Slag" by Paolo Bacigalupi "Echo" by Liz Hand "The New York Times at Special Bargain Rates" by Stephen King "The Paper Menagerie" by Ken Liu

30 review for The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Volume 2

  1. 4 out of 5

    Bob Milne

    The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Volume 2, edited by Gordon Van Gelder, brings together 432 pages of stories from throughout the magazine's illustrious history. This was more a matter of revisiting some classics than discovering new favorites, but that doesn't make it any less of a must-read. Surprisingly, a lot of the stories contained here are of the comic variety. Even more surprisingly, they are a strong bunch of stories. The Third Level by Jack Finney is a fun tale of portals The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Volume 2, edited by Gordon Van Gelder, brings together 432 pages of stories from throughout the magazine's illustrious history. This was more a matter of revisiting some classics than discovering new favorites, but that doesn't make it any less of a must-read. Surprisingly, a lot of the stories contained here are of the comic variety. Even more surprisingly, they are a strong bunch of stories. The Third Level by Jack Finney is a fun tale of portals through time and one man's attempt to finance a personal paradise; The Aliens Who Knew, I Mean, Everything by George Alec Effinger shares with us alien observations on the 'best' of everything; while The Attack of the Giant Baby by Kit Reed is pure slapstick absurdity. On the flip side, there are a larger number of dark, disturbing, creepy, grotesque tales that probably consumed most of my reading time. Salvador by Lucius Shepard offers up a grim exploration of future super soliders; Rat by James Patrick Kelly is a cyberpunk tale that falls into the drug-abuse trap (why does every cyberpunk tale seem to center around an addiction of some sort?) but which does a superb job of it; The Country of the Kind by Damon Knight is an interesting exploration of cultural deviants and societal outcasts; while The Friendship Light by Gene Wolfe takes a different sort of approach to revenge that I probably enjoyed far too much. Favorites that I've enjoyed before include All You Zombies by Robert A. Heinlein (one of the few Heinlein stories I've liked); The Prize of Peril by Robert Sheckley (something about his short fiction has always appealed to me - so subversive and inappropriately amusing); Echo by Elizabeth Hand (I really do need to read more of her work), and The New York Times at Special Bargain Rates by Stephen King (a favorite from his Just After Sunset collection). Overall, what I liked about Van Gelder's approach is the way he put the authors front-and-center, prefacing each story with a quick biography, rather than burying those blurbs somewhere in an appendix at the back. It's just an added little touch that I think helped me connect (and reconnect) to the stories within. Originally reviewed at Beauty in Ruins

  2. 5 out of 5

    Yzabel Ginsberg

    (I got a copy of this book from NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.) 3.5 stars for this collection of 27 stories, some of which are funny and grotesque, some others dark and disturbing. Strangely, I didn't feel that much of a connection with a lot of those. Maybe I've become picky after a few disappointing experiences with anthologies recently, or maybe I tend to expect more definite endings; I regularly got the feeling that this or that story was interesting (because of its theme and/or (I got a copy of this book from NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.) 3.5 stars for this collection of 27 stories, some of which are funny and grotesque, some others dark and disturbing. Strangely, I didn't feel that much of a connection with a lot of those. Maybe I've become picky after a few disappointing experiences with anthologies recently, or maybe I tend to expect more definite endings; I regularly got the feeling that this or that story was interesting (because of its theme and/or the questions it raised), but without going as far as I thought it should go, considering that I expected "the best", yet felt I got "good only". It's definitely strange, indeed, since I wouldn't say those texts are bad. Objectively, there's a lot of creativity in here, lots of different concepts, lots of exploring, which all represent a variety of stages in the history of speculative fiction. Subjectively, they just didn't touch me the way I thought they would. My favourites: * Maneki Neko: I really like the idea of a network linking people, everybody being a link in the large picture chain without knowing what it's going to end in, but performing acts (of kindness, but also totally random sometimes) for strangers. It would almost seem of the conspiratorial kind... but it could also be seen as another way of living, with the awareness that whatever you do for others, someday a stranger will do something good for you as well. * The People of Sand and Slag: An exploration in what being human entails, once technology/biotech have gone so far that human beings can regrow limbs, live on basically dirt if they need to, and have lost part of what make us who we currently are. * The Paper Menagerie: Bittersweet and touching, a tale of magic and love gone misunderstood until it's much too late for the protagonist to do anything about it. * The Anything Box: An interesting reflection of people's (especially children's) ability to dream, and how this ability can be so easy to crush by other people who think they know so much better than you. After I read it, I was all the more determined to never let anything destroy my soul. * The Prize of Peril: Probably not as original today as it was when it was first published, but as far as reality TV goes, it definitely felt "right". The Good Samaritans, the people helping the protagonist, aren't so good as willing to see danger pop up here and there for as long as possible. Very ambiguous. Not so favourites, though still intriguing: * The Bone Woman, as a tale of second chances and dreams given to those who've lost everything. * The New York Times at Special Bargain Rates, for its blend of haunting longing and trying to fit into a new life. * Winemaster: An exploration of microcosms on different scales, how they may be perceived, and where people would draw the line at, well, "people" and "not-people anymore." * The Aliens Who Knew, I Mean, Everything: Pretty amusing. I somehow expected the ending, yet it still made me chuckle no matter what. * The Third Level: Here, too, I could somewhat sense the twist coming. However, it was one of those stories where it just doesn't matter: you see it coming, you want it to come, and it's really satisfying. Overall, it is a pretty satisfying collection, and makes for an appropriate introduction to lots of different types of SF/F stories, especially for readers who're not very familiar with what those genres at large have to offer. My "problem" with it is mostly personal, a matter of feeling, rather than of actual literary worth. Sometimes, it just happens...

  3. 5 out of 5

    Althea Ann

    3.48 average... I'll round up to 4. This collection finishes a lot stronger than it starts. (No, I don't think that decades past were devoid of great fiction; I just don't think that all the older selections here were as strong as they could've been.) Still, there are some real gems here - and overall, this collection gives a good overview of the breadth of the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction's editorial selection. *** “The Third Level” by Jack Finney (1952) Well, I liked this better than 3.48 average... I'll round up to 4. This collection finishes a lot stronger than it starts. (No, I don't think that decades past were devoid of great fiction; I just don't think that all the older selections here were as strong as they could've been.) Still, there are some real gems here - and overall, this collection gives a good overview of the breadth of the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction's editorial selection. *** “The Third Level” by Jack Finney (1952) Well, I liked this better than Finney's 'Time and Again.' It has the same sort of wistful nostalgia for the past, which borders on sappy. But I really liked the portrayal of Grand Central (still totally recognizable today), and the idea of getting lost and finding the stairwell down to another level... ** “The Cosmic Charge Account” by C. M. Kornbluth (1956) Not my kind of thing. An intentionally silly story of a Professor whose scholarly work on a kind of transcendent meditation has apparently had only one devoted reader - who has, unfortunately, turned a huge swath of territory in her vicinity into a stricken land of mindless zombies. *** “The Country of the Kind” by Damon Knight (1956) The trials and tribulations of a sociopath in a future society of peaceful, well-adjusted individuals. There's some interesting content here, about how the sociopath, unique in his society, equates his violence with 'freedom' - but he's really just a petty loser and a self-centered bully. *****“The Anything Box” by Zenna Henderson (1956) A re-read - previously read in Henderson's collection of the same title, and probably in other anthologies as well. A sweet and beautiful story of a child and her teacher, about the magic and necessity of imagination and hope - for both children and adults. *** “The Prize of Peril” by Robert Sheckley (1958) Eerily prescient! The premise here is very similar to Stephen King's 'The Running Man.' We're introduced to a protagonist who has signed up to be on a televised game show - if he can evade hired killers for a certain amount of time, he wins. Call-in viewers can donate gifts or help - much like in 'The Hunger Games.' This is a solid, early entry into this genre, with a nicely bleak outlook on human nature. * "‘—All You Zombies—’” by Robert A. Heinlein (1959) In the introduction to this book, Michael Dirda complains about modern readers dismissing older writers like, specifically, Heinlein. With Dirda's direct implication that Heinlein is not actually 'misogynistic,' perhaps a different selection would've been more apropos. This is a time paradox story. It's not specifically *about* gender, but Heinlein's deeply sexist assumptions about how gender affects personality and his assumptions about how even a future society's sexism will not change in any way, are fully on display here. (In the future, women don't become 'spacemen,' they are sent to be 'comfort women' for lonely spacemen who can't control their 'urges.' The possibility of a woman being a competent astronaut isn't even considered.) (view spoiler)[Unless, of course, she actually becomes a man. Apparently male hormones confer said competence. (hide spoiler)] Ugh. PS, there are no zombies in this story. I didn't find the ramifications of the time-travel dilemma, as presented here, as interesting or 'mind-blowing' as other readers have. ** “A Kind of Artistry” by Brian W. Aldiss (1962) If you like Aldiss, you will probably like this. I've never gotten into his style - I find it a bit rambling and opaque. Here, a far-future human leaves his overbearing and shrewish mother/lover to make contact with a huge and strange alien. *** “Green Magic” by Jack Vance (1963) Better than Vance I've read in the past, but not particularly remarkable. An occultist is intrigued by the grimoire left behind by his deceased relative, and uses it to begin researching an entirely new plane of magical existence. Will what he learns change his perspective on what he desires? *** “Narrow Valley” by R. A. Lafferty (1966) A tale told with a wink and a chuckle, about a Native American who resorts to magic to prevent his land being taken by the White Man, and the modern-day invaders who try to lay claim to the property, precocious brats and RV in tow... *** “Sundance” by Robert Silverberg (1969) A Native American, on a mission to prepare a new planet for colonization, becomes disturbed by the concept that the native life he's exterminating might be sentient. The story starts very strongly, but then tries to squish too many possibilities in, right at the end. I expected a strong statement, but it kind of backed off and sputtered out. ** “Attack of the Giant Baby” by Kit Reed (1976) A direct precursor of "Honey, I Blew Up The Kid." A scientist father's experiment accidentally results in, literally, a giant baby. *****“The Hundredth Dove” by Jane Yolen (1977) Stories like this original fairy tale are what earned Yolen her well-deserved, stellar reputation. The King's fowler sets out to obey his monarch's directive to capture 100 doves for the royal wedding feast - even though the bride protests. Gorgeous and tragic, with that aura of inner truth that sets up a sympathetic resonance of the heart... **** “Jeffty Is Five” by Harlan Ellison (1977) A reread - previously read in the 'Locus Awards' collection. A classic, and impressively well-done. I actually disagree with the content of the story: I object to the nostalgia for 'good old days' that it rests on - but it doesn't matter. It's still incredibly moving. Two boys are best friends. One of them grows up and does all the normal things a young man does. One of them stays five years old, both mentally and physically. They stay friends, even though their dynamic changes... and one realizes that his friend is quite literally tuned in to another time. **** “Salvador” by Lucius Shepard (1984) Powerful and hallucinogenic. This piece fully conjures up the moral confusion and social disconnect of soldiers pushed into atrocities. The reader sees the point of view of a Special Forces operative, on patrol searching for Sandinistas in El Salvador, mostly under the influence of weird drugs. It's not really in the SFF genre, but it's an excellent and thought-provoking piece of war fiction. *** “The Aliens Who Knew, I Mean, Everything” by George Alec Effinger (1984) Aliens make first contact with earth - and they are insufferable know-it-alls. Yes, life on our planet is changed by our new horizons - but not quite in the way anyone expected. This one definitely brought a smile to my face. ** “Rat” by James Patrick Kelly (1986) OK, so this is a fairly standard and unsurprising cyberpunk-ish drug-smuggling tale - where the main character happens to be an anthropomorphic rat. I'm really not sure why he's a rat. It's not explained. Is it supposed to be funny? All the other characters in the story seem human-standard. Go figure. Future. Drugs. Violence. Rat. Shrug. **** “The Friendship Light” by Gene Wolfe (1989) A horror story. As always, with Gene Wolfe, there's a lot going on here, and a lot of it is in the gradual reveal, which makes it hard to say too much about it. Our narrator, who is probably unreliable, gets a note from his brother-in-law asking for a favor... and from that seemingly normal starting point, things degenerate into creepiness. Wolfe has a very distinctive style - if you like his writing, you'll like this. *** “The Bone Woman” by Charles de Lint (1993) Typical de Lint. This is one of his Newford stories. A street musician keeps an eye out for one of his local mentally ill homeless women, so he notices when a strange character starts paying an unusual amount of attention to her. When this new character turns out to be collecting an unusual number of bones out of the trash, the musician finds it somewhat disturbing and ominous, and goes to investigate. What he finds is magical and unexpected. *****“The Lincoln Train” by Maureen F. McHugh (1995) A re-read. (Previously read in 'Mothers and Other Monsters.') This is an impressively crafted, emotionally wrenching piece. It worked just as well the second time through, too. In an alternate history, President Lincoln has survived an assassination attempt and decisively defeated the South. Former slave-owners are being forcibly shipped out west in cattle-cars stuffed with refugees. One young woman, evicted from her home, has a terrible time of it... McHugh just twists you around her finger, then twists you back the other way and forces you to look at yourself and examine your assumptions. **** “Maneki Neko” by Bruce Sterling (1998) A re-read - but it's been quite a while since I last read this. This may be my favorite piece by Bruce Sterling. Cyberpunk isn't generally thought of as being optimistic and cheery, but this story really is. It laughs, in a rather good-natured way, at those who are hostile to and threatened by technological change. In this future, members of semi-secret 'networks' are always doing small, easy things at the urging of their pocket computers. These actions are usually to help out someone else - and they get benefits in return. This general attitude of 'pay-it-forward' has helped to set up a functional gift economy - and of course, those who are invested in the traditional economy are threatened. It's a fun story with a personal feel (and some action!) - but with some radical, sensible ideas. *** “Winemaster” Robert Reed (1999) Interesting thoughts on nanotech and issues of time and scale as applied to societies... and the conflicts that may or may not arise when they go out of sync. A driver stops at a gas station. Some militia/hooligans want to mess with him, but a big man stops them. But what are his reasons? The pleasure of this story is in how it unfolds, so I won't say more... **** “Suicide Coast” by M. John Harrison (1999) An exploration of the pros and cons of extreme sports (and life in general) lived through the physical world, and lived through virtual reality. Surprisingly even-handed... and heartbreaking. *****“Have Not Have” by Geoff Ryman (2001) Another re-read. I was absolutely blown away by this, when it first came out. Then I read the expanded-into-a-novel version, 'Air.' I didn't feel that the continuation quite lived up to the beginning, but it was still excellent. Upon re-reading, though, I did find myself thinking about 'what happened next...' The story introduces Mae, an enterprising but not very likable woman who makes a living as a 'fashion consultant' for her remote village. She is aware that her stock in trade is not actually fashion, but information, and as such, she hoards it jealously. However, her livelihood - and the way of life of everyone she knows - is threatened by an incipient technological advance that will affect the whole world. *****“The People of Sand and Slag” by Paolo Bacigalupi (2004) I've read this one at least a couple of times before, and have shoved it into people's faces and insisted that they sit down right there and read it. It's a 'Boy and His Dog' story. It's a scathing excoriation of what humanity's doing to the world. It's possibly an extension of the same future hinted as being to-come in 'The Wind-Up Girl.' And it will make you cry. **** “Echo” by Elizabeth Hand (2005) Already read, in Hand's 'Saffron and Brimstone.' "A quietly post-apocalyptic tale which compares and contrasts the myth of Echo and Narcissus with a story of a lonely woman living on a solitary island, missing her lover and hoping against hope that he might return to her." **** “The New York Times at Special Bargain Rates” by Stephen King (2008) This ghost story has the distinct feel of one of those stories that someone tells you, swearing it's true. "It's happened to my friend's sister's cousin... really!" A woman gets a phone call from her recently-deceased husband... and what he tells her may change her life. *****“The Paper Menagerie” by Ken Liu (2011) Already read, in 'Nebula Awards Showcase 2013.' "'The Paper Menagerie' is the first work of fiction, of any length, to have swept the Nebula, Hugo, and World Fantasy Awards." I cried. OK, usually when I say "I cried" I mean one tear escaped my eye... This story made me cry a whole bunch of tears. A story of the disconnect between parents and children, the gap between cultures, and magical origami. Thanks to NetGalley for an advance copy of this collection! As always, my opinion is my own.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Andi Rawson

    3.5 stars. A slightly obsessed fan of Stephen King I will admit that I read this anthology solely for his story. There are a lot of stories in this anthology so I will try to narrow it down to just the ones that either stuck with or annoyed me. The ones I liked: The New York Times at Special Bargain Rates. by Stephen King: I really loved this one but that was unsurprising. It's King, it has a Twlight Zone Feel, and I loved the premise of it. The Third Level by Jack Finney: This one also reminded 3.5 stars. A slightly obsessed fan of Stephen King I will admit that I read this anthology solely for his story. There are a lot of stories in this anthology so I will try to narrow it down to just the ones that either stuck with or annoyed me. The ones I liked: The New York Times at Special Bargain Rates. by Stephen King: I really loved this one but that was unsurprising. It's King, it has a Twlight Zone Feel, and I loved the premise of it. The Third Level by Jack Finney: This one also reminded me of a Twilight Zone episode and I loved the ending. The Bone Woman by Charles de Lint: An interesting tale of an old fat woman who collects bones and her choice of company. The People of Sand & Slag by Paolo Bacigalupi: A disturbing and chaotic dystopian story that I quite enjoyed. The world is a dump and people thrive on garbage-- this one reminded me of Judge Dredd's "Eat recycled food" robot. There were also some I really didn't care for: The Cosmic Expense Account by C.M. Kornbluth: I found this one to be long-winded and the characters annoying. —All You Zombies—by Robert A. Heinlein: Not quite the zombie story I was hoping for and not interesting enough to make up for the lack. I can't say this is the book will change my love/hate relationship with anthologies but it is a decent collection and I enjoyed reading it. I was provided a copy as an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Hilary

    What a collection! Filled with classic stories from SF masters and those we really should know, these tales contain people you like and people you fear. There is the ultimate in reality TV and a traditional fairy tale, hard SF and classic Heinlein, and some which were more tongue-in-cheek. There are what ifs, imaginative children, a giant baby, and a boy who never grows up, an unexpected alien invasion, a new kind of pay-it-forward, the magic and sadness of love, and inept magic users. Not only d What a collection! Filled with classic stories from SF masters and those we really should know, these tales contain people you like and people you fear. There is the ultimate in reality TV and a traditional fairy tale, hard SF and classic Heinlein, and some which were more tongue-in-cheek. There are what ifs, imaginative children, a giant baby, and a boy who never grows up, an unexpected alien invasion, a new kind of pay-it-forward, the magic and sadness of love, and inept magic users. Not only does one story contrast then and now, but so does the entire collection. It's hard to find SF like this now. There was only one I couldn't get into, and one I didn't really enjoy, and that's a pretty good ratio for a collection of short stories. All were new to me, to my delight, and I've found plenty of new authors to add to my reading lists. Disclaimer: I received a free copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Carly

    A few weeks ago, I read a short-story collection of recent works from big-name authors that caused me to reflect on what I looked for in the short story. I came to the conclusion that my childhood addiction to Year's Best anthologies left me looking for strange, creative, and memorable stories from a variety of authors, from the neophyte to grand masters. The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Volume 2 goes one better. Rather than restricting itself to the last year, Van Gelder was free A few weeks ago, I read a short-story collection of recent works from big-name authors that caused me to reflect on what I looked for in the short story. I came to the conclusion that my childhood addiction to Year's Best anthologies left me looking for strange, creative, and memorable stories from a variety of authors, from the neophyte to grand masters. The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Volume 2 goes one better. Rather than restricting itself to the last year, Van Gelder was free to sift through all of the great authors, and through all of their works, trying to find a single story that exemplified the brilliance and style and mind of that author. The collection that Van Gelder unearthed contains more than its fair share of gems. The collection consists mostly of stories from the "old guard" of speculative fiction, including memorable stories from big-name authors such as Aldiss and Heinlein, with a judicious mixture of newer award-winning authors. Van Gelder introduces each story with a brief biography of the author in which his admiration is practically tangible. I found some of the biographies to be as readable and interesting, adding a crucial context to the stories. Some of the stories were truly spectacular. My top picks: “The Paper Menagerie” by Ken Liu was one of the gems of the collection, a magical, bittersweet little story of clashing cultures and parents and being a second-generation American. It is utterly poignant and beautiful, heartbreaking and magical.“You know what the Chinese think is the saddest feeling in the world? It’s for a child to finally grow the desire to take care of his parents, only to realize that they were long gone.” “The People of Sand and Slag” by Paolo Bacigalupi was also brilliant. It takes place in a future in which people have been so altered by "weeviltech" that they can find sustenance in dirt and slag, and can slice off an arm or a leg and have it almost instantly regenerate. A bunch of security guards at a slag heap site stumble upon a "genuine bio-job" dog who has somehow managed to survive in the brave new world of burning acid and toxic slag. The group isn't sure whether they want to keep or eat the dog--after all, it's pathetically weak and can't even regrow its own bones. The story is poignant and grotesque by turns, an exploration of what it means to be human when the term "humanity" has lost all meaning. My favourite quote is from a poem from the early days of weeviltech:“Cut me and I won’t bleed. Gas me and I won’t breathe. Stab me, shoot me, slash me, smash me I have swallowed science I am God. Alone.” “Maneki Neko” by Bruce Sterling is a lighthearted and enjoyable exploration of what I can only term “automated karma.” In this future, most people in Japan carry pokkecon , small personal computers which can be seen as either turning them into “information criminals” who, zombielike, do whatever the screen tells them to do, helping them to “relate in a much more human way.” “The Prize of Peril” by Robert Sheckley is a deliciously cynical story in which the media has come up with a lovely method of monetizing the new Voluntary Suicide Act: thrill shows. Like the reality shows of our time, average--or more typically, rather below-average-- people can sign up to do risky and nonsensical things for the audience’s entertainment. Unlike our reality shows, the danger is real: in these elimination shows, elimination is not a figure of speech. Nowadays, this plot isn’t too out of the ordinary, although I think this story executes the idea brilliantly. The impressive bit? The story was written in 1958, long before reality shows had really come into their own. A few of my favourite quotes:“Those quiet, mannerly, law-abiding people didn’t want him to escape, Raeder thought sadly. They wanted to see a killing. Or perhaps they wanted to see him narrowly escape a killing. It came to the same thing, really.” “Society had woven the noose and put it around his neck, and he was hanging himself with it, and calling it free will.” The authors include renown greats such as Heinlein as well as authors who have disappeared from the current consciousness. I loved how varied the collection was; it contained everything from an early urban fantasy by Charles de Lint to George Alec Effinger's hilarious "The Aliens Who Knew, I Mean, Everything" to a lovely fairy-story by Jan Yolen to "Sundance," Robert Silverberg's hallucinatory story of future imperialism. There are quite a few other great stories in the collection, and while some left me unmoved, I didn't actually dislike any of them, which, for me, was a bit of an anomaly. All of them provided an interesting glimpse at the ways in which speculative fiction has evolved over the last few decades. Van Gelder set out to provide a taste of some of the most renowned speculative fiction authors over the last half-century, and he succeeded brilliantly. The stories are funny, thought-provoking, and grotesque by turns, it is truly a magnificent collection. Excerpted from my review on Booklikes. ~~I received this ebook through NetGalley from the publisher, Tachyon Publications, in exchange for my honest review.~~

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lasa Limpin

    Great to read up the decades (1950's into the 2000's) and see styles change. Definitely worth it for that. Also for Harlan Ellison's 'Jeffty is Five', and 'The Lincoln Train' by Maureen F. McHugh -- loved loved loved that one. Also good, 'Have Not Have' by Geoff Ryman, 'The People of Sand and Slag' by Paolo Bacigalupi. And personally, absolutely hated 'Attack of the Giant Baby' by Kit Reed and 'Echo' by Elizabeth Hand. Bleargh! But your mileage may vary.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Teresa

    It's impossible to give an accurate, play by play rating of every story in this volume. While some didn't spark my interest or challenge my assumptions, others did very well. Others struck that perfect emotional resonance, all the speculative beauty and meaning of modern fiction through the lens of what humanity can be and might become.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Marcheto

    This anthology has been a pleasure to read. It compiles some of the best stories published in Fantasy & Science Fiction magazine during over 65 years and the result is a well-balanced and highly enjoyable mixture of old and more recent stories; of classic and less known tales (although all of them are by really well-known authors); of stories I had already read and of stories which were new to me; of deep, dark, sad, light and funny works. I didn’t care for all the stories, of course, but I d This anthology has been a pleasure to read. It compiles some of the best stories published in Fantasy & Science Fiction magazine during over 65 years and the result is a well-balanced and highly enjoyable mixture of old and more recent stories; of classic and less known tales (although all of them are by really well-known authors); of stories I had already read and of stories which were new to me; of deep, dark, sad, light and funny works. I didn’t care for all the stories, of course, but I didn’t dislike a single one, and most of them were notable and even excellent. Among those new to me my standouts were those by George Alec Effinger, Stephen King and C. M. Kornbluth; and among my re-reads, those by Robert Sheckley, Harlan Ellison, and “The People of Sand and Slang”, by Paolo Bacigalupi, my absolute personal favorite. Highly recommended for any short fiction lover and a must-read for SF/fantasy fans.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

    This review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 4.5 of 5 What can one possibly say about something titled "The Very Best of..." when it's covering stories from what is arguably the very best magazine publishing fantasy and science fiction stories? Well...you know it's probably pretty darned good! There have been over thirty "Best of Fantasy and Science Fiction" anthologies, collecting years and decades worth of stories published between the pages of the magazine and there's even This review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 4.5 of 5 What can one possibly say about something titled "The Very Best of..." when it's covering stories from what is arguably the very best magazine publishing fantasy and science fiction stories? Well...you know it's probably pretty darned good! There have been over thirty "Best of Fantasy and Science Fiction" anthologies, collecting years and decades worth of stories published between the pages of the magazine and there's even been a previous "The Very Best of" anthology. That's a lot of history of a lot of very good fiction and a daunting task for editor Gordon van Gelder to select the very cream of the crop. The book opens with a story from 1952, "The Third Level," by Jack Finney. The story manages to reflect the thoughts and fears of its time, while remaining timeless (perhaps because our thoughts and fears don't change so much, after all?). I won't go through, story by story - there were a few that didn't really have much impact on me (it's the same when I read this, or any other, magazine) - such as C.M. Kornbluth's "The Cosmic Expense Account" and Robert Heinlein's "'--All You Zombies--'" and "Attack of the Giant Baby" by Kit Reed. But more often than not I was impressed by the stories ...only a small handful that I remember reading back in the late 1970's/early 1980's when I subscribed to the magazine: "Jeffty is Five" by Harlan Ellison is such a story, as is George Alec Effinger's "The Aliens Who Knew, I Mean, Everything." Ellison's work was always cutting edge and 'Jeffty' is one of the classics that continues to stand the test of time. Effinger is someone who's work I saw a lot of at the time but who doesn't have the following that he should. This is a great way to introduce him to new readers. I stopped reading F&SF in the 1980's - not because I wasn't interested, but ...well...life happens sometimes. My point, though, is that the writers here that appeared in the magazine after the 1980's are authors who are 'new' to me (though I've recently become acquainted with those still publishing). I enjoyed Charles de Lint's "The Bone Woman" and Maureen F. McHugh's "The Lincoln Train" - an alternative history story. "Maneki Neko" is by Bruce Sterling - one of my favorite 'new' authors (though he's pretty established now) and this story shows his deft hand. He's known as one of the leaders of the 'cyber-punk' category and here he combines his noted cyberpunk skills with humor. A fun story, and it's these fun stories that always made me appreciate Fantasy and Science Fiction. As I wrote at the top, there's a lot of good fiction here, since it's the best of the best, and it's difficult to choose an absolute favorite, but Paolo Bacigalupi's "The People of Sand and Slag" would be my selection for most powerful, moving story. This collection contains the following: Foreword - Gordon van Gelder Introduction - Michael Dirda "The Third Level" - Jack Finney "The Cosmic Expense Account" - C. M. Kornbluth "The Country of the Kind" - Damon Knight "The Anything Box" = Zenna Henderson "The Prize of Peril" - Robert Sheckley "'--All You Zombies--'" - Robert A. Heinlein "A Kind of Artistry" - Brian W. Aldiss "Green Magic" - Jack Vance :Narrow Valley" - R.A. Lafferty "Sundance" - Robert Silverberg "The Attack of the Giant Baby" - Kit Reed "The Hundredth Dove" - Jane Yolen "Jeffty is Five" - Harlan Ellison "Salvador" - Lucius Shepard "The Aliens Who Knew, I Mean, Everything" - George Alec Effinger "Rat" - James Patrick Kelly "The Friendship Light" - Gene Wolfe "The Bone Woman" - Charles de Lint "Maneki Neko" - Bruce Sterling "Winemaster" - Robert Reed "Suicide Coast" - M. John Harrison "Have Not Have" - Geoff Ryman "The People of Sand and Slag" - Paolo Bacigalupi "Echo" - Elizabeth Hand "The New York Times at Special Bargain Rates" - Stephen King "The Paper Meagerie" - Ken Liu Looking for a good book? The Very Best of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Volume 2, edited by Gordon van Gelder is a book that can't help but appeal to anyone who already loves the genre and is a great way to introduce great science fiction and fantasy to new readers. I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Grigory Lukin

    One of the sadder things about the science fiction and fantasy genre is that readers often overlook older stories and novels, choosing to chase new releases instead. This anthology, edited by Gordon Van Gelder, seeks to right that wrong by reprinting stories that were originally published between 1956-2011. (For the most part, they're closer to 1956.) Some of the stories are hilarious, some are great, some aren't. This anthology is an excellent way to get to know great authors from the decades pa One of the sadder things about the science fiction and fantasy genre is that readers often overlook older stories and novels, choosing to chase new releases instead. This anthology, edited by Gordon Van Gelder, seeks to right that wrong by reprinting stories that were originally published between 1956-2011. (For the most part, they're closer to 1956.) Some of the stories are hilarious, some are great, some aren't. This anthology is an excellent way to get to know great authors from the decades past, but a few of the stories leave a lot to be desired, which is why I'm giving it only 4 stars instead of 5. Brief story synopses: “The Third Level” by Jack Finney: an average Joe time-travels when he discovers a hidden third level of the Grand Central Station. A fun story that shows not all time travel fiction needs to be complicated. “The Cosmic Charge Account” by C. M. Kornbluth: a little old lady with latent psychic abilities reads a self-help book and decides to change her universe. Literally. The book's pompous writer and a young publisher head out to stop the disaster in this hilarious, quirky and surreal story that has many genuinely "laugh out loud" moments. “The Country of the Kind” by Damon Knight: the world's last sociopath is all alone in the futuristic utopia. An unusual, sad and tragic short story. “The Anything Box” by Zenna Henderson: a teacher gets curious when one of her first-graders spends all her time playing with an invisible magic box. A "soft" sci-fi story that explores the human nature instead of science or technology. “The Prize of Peril” by Robert Sheckley: in a world where new laws make it legal for reality TV shows to kill their contestants for the promise of prize money, one man is on the run from a gang of murderers while the country cheers on. An excellent story that combines "The running man" and "Hunger games." “—All You Zombies—” by Robert A. Heinlein: A man in charge of resolving temporal paradoxes gets assigned a particularly challenging case... This story gets better each time you read it - the time travel paradox it describes is one of the best I've seen yet! “A Kind of Artistry” by Brian W. Aldiss: In the strange distant future with its matriarchal society, genetic engineering and space exploration, one man is trying to do his best. A fairly long and disturbing story that features the mother of all Oedipus complexes. Probably my least favorite in this anthology. “Green Magic” by Jack Vance: In a world where magic is commonplace and anyone can study it, one man wants even more as he follows his great uncle's research on a new type of magic. A well written cautionary tale that reminds us all to be careful what we wish for. “Narrow Valley” by R. A. Lafferty: a Native American enchants his tiny plot of land to make it inaccessible by just about anybody - as an enterprising 20th-century family is about to find out. A goofy story that makes fun of just about everything under the sun. “Sundance” by Robert Silverberg: a human scientist that's supposed to eradicate an entire species of cute little creatures to terraform a new planet begins to have his doubts... An unusually written, deep and truly intelligent short story about the morality of terraforming and the dangers of the human-centered worldview. “The Attack of the Giant Baby” by Kit Reed: A baby starts to grow bigger and bigger after its scientist father screws up. A goofy story that's a lot like the movie "Honey, I Blew Up the Kid." “The Hundredth Dove” by Jane Yolen: A story about a fowl keeper, a king and his enchanted bride. To me, this seems more like an old-fashioned fairy tale than a fantasy story, but to each their own, I suppose... “Jeffty Is Five” by Harlan Ellison: What happens to a child that stops aging (both physically and mentally) at the age of five? A very serious (and somewhat sad) take on this very strange concept from the point of view of a childhood friend who grows up. “Salvador” by Lucius Shepard: American soldiers fighting in El Salvador are given drugs that make them stronger, faster, meaner - at the cost of their sanity. A very bloody, disturbing but well written story that was doubtlessly inspired by the horrors of the Vietnam War. “The Aliens Who Knew, I mean, Everything” by George Alec Effinger: A not-too-bright U.S. President describes the planet's first contact with friendly but insufferably pedantic aliens. A hilarious take on the usually scary "first contact" trope. “Rat” by J. P. Kelly: In a dark cyberpunk world of the future, a super-intelligent rat is dealing drugs and staying one step ahead of the authorities. Definitely an unusual premise and very well written with more action than most other stories in this anthology. “The Friendship Light” by Gene Wolfe: A handyman uses his skills to destroy the lives of his sister and her husband. A fairly complex horror story that features low-tech mischief instead of high-tech space-age devices usually found in science fiction. “The Bone Woman” by Charles de Lint: What if creatures from Native American myths were real and still roamed the earth? The protagonist follows a strange homeless woman who collects bones for some mysterious purpose. A very interesting story that reminded me of Neil Gaiman's "American Gods." "The Lincoln Train” by Maureen F. McHugh: In this alternate universe, Lincoln barely survives the assassination attempt and his administration strikes back by forcibly relocating former slaveholders. The protagonist is a young woman that's about to be relocated with her elderly mother. A great story that would make an amazing novel. “Maneki Neko” by Bruce Sterling: In a futuristic Japan where a self-aware computer network operates a complex system based on gifts and favors from millions of people, an American FBI agent gets in a world of trouble when she tries to play by the book. A quirky and satirical story with an unusual premise. “Winemaster” by Robert Reed: When people learn to transmute their minds into nanobots and code, the physical world loses its greatest minds, as well as most of its population. A prototypical "hard" sci-fi story that features everything from the nature of consciousness to corrupt genocidal governments to visitors from other worlds. “Suicide Coast” by M. John Harrison: In a world with highly addictive virtual reality games, the protagonist is stuck in a love triangle with his daredevil friend and the friend's wife. Or is he? A definitely unusual story that's very meta, if you like big plot twists. “Have Not Have” by Geoff Ryman: A story of a fashion designer who lives in the last village in the world to go online. A human interest story about life in the middle of nowhere and the stereotypical plucky provincial characters who are about to have their lives changed forever. “The People of Sand & Slag” by Paolo Bacigalupi: When the world becomes a toxic dump, what should genetically modified creatures (who can eat trash and plastic, among other things) do when they find a bona fide biological dog on the loose? An immensely interesting (if slightly disturbing) story set in a dysfunctional world. (Just like all of Bacigalupi's fiction, really.) “Echo” by Liz Hand: After an unknown disaster destroys the world as we know it, a woman waits for her lover on an uninhabited island, with only her dog as her company. A sad tale that provides the human angle that's so often missing from "end of the world" stories. “The New York Times at Special Bargain Rates” by Stephen King: A man killed in a plane crash finds a way to call his wife. Even if you're not a fan of Stephen King's fiction, you're guaranteed to like this story. “The Paper Menagerie” by Ken Liu: The son of a Chinese mail-order bride turns his back on his heritage and his mother's magic origami toys. If you like human interest stories with just a touch of science fiction, you'll love this one. Score: 4 stars

  12. 5 out of 5

    Ron

    This is an excellent collection of short fiction. The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction began publication in 1949 and this new book published in 2014 marks the 65th anniversary year. We have 27 stories in this collection first published in the magazine between October 1952 and May/June 2011. Most if not all of these stories have already appeared in collections or anthologies (including ones from the magazine itself) over the years, or Year's Best collections, but that does not diminish t This is an excellent collection of short fiction. The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction began publication in 1949 and this new book published in 2014 marks the 65th anniversary year. We have 27 stories in this collection first published in the magazine between October 1952 and May/June 2011. Most if not all of these stories have already appeared in collections or anthologies (including ones from the magazine itself) over the years, or Year's Best collections, but that does not diminish the significance of them first appearing in the magazine, but rather validates it. Editor Gordon Van Gelder in his foreword says his nickname for the collection is "F&SF's Greatest Hits, Volume 2." The nickname is appropriate. Many of these stories can be considered the "best of the best" from prior collections and recognition. I also found the introduction to this collection, written by Michael Dirda to be quite informative. This is an excellent way to bring older stories to the attention of newer readers. Since I am a longtime reader of science fiction, including the magazine at times, I have previously read a number of the stories over the years, a bit more than half, although none very recently with the exception of Robert Silverberg's "Sundance". Some of these stories are "classics" with a capital C. I remember being stunned when I first read Lucius Shepard's "Salvador" in 1984. I had just begun a subscription to the magazine that year after a number of years of haphazard reading and eagerly read each issue as they arrived. I never expected something like Salvador. It is also one of his very first published stories. I can also remember being entranced by Zenna Henderson's fantasy story "The Anything Box" when I first read it as a young teen in the 60's. Although there are a number of science fiction classics included here, such as Harlan Ellison's "Jeffty is Five" (another one of those which once read is never forgotten), there are also many smaller classics from across the years. So having said that, I think the collection gets off to a slow start. If the first stories disappoint stick with it. I wouldn't call all of the stories in this collection "Greatest Hits" and a few surprised me for having been included, especially the second story, although they are all interesting in one way or another. Just like with music, different songs, different stories will resonate differently with the audience. I think I would have dropped a couple of the early stories to include a few more from mid to later years. I can think of some excellent F&SF stories not included in either Vol 1 or 2 of the "Very Best" that could comfortably sit in here and deserve to be rescued from the obscurity of old magazine pages, stories that I don't think have been collected or anthologized much, if at all. I suppose I will have to wait for future volumes if the series continues. I'll mention just a couple of the perhaps less well known minor classics included in the collection. The third story here, "The Country of the Kind" by Damon Knight from 1956 kicks the collection into gear. It is a sad and disturbing story that doesn't soon leave one's memory. Sad. Disturbing. There are no better words for this story. I first read it years ago in Gardner Dozois's "Modern Classics of Science Fiction" anthology which also includes Lucius Shepard's "Salvador". "Salvador" came out at at time when Central America seemed to be in a constant civil war or revolutionary state. The ground pounding near-future warriors gave us a dark look at what could evolve, and the dark echoes of Vietnam from a decade earlier ring through the story as well. Robert Sheckley's "The Prize Peril" is scarily prescient of reality TV and is perhaps only one final step removed from where it is today. And it was published in 1958! There are many other excellent stories in the collection, such as the alternate history tale "The Lincoln Train" by Maureen McHugh. Ken Lui's multiple award winning short piece from 2011, the newest in the collection, is "The Paper Menagerie." Something of a tearjerker. Rather than talk about more of the stories I'll just suggest that the prospective reader discover them. Good anthologies seem to be a rare breed these days, though they once were a staple of the genre. All in all this collection is an excellent overview of the span of F&SF and a testament to the importance that the magazine has held in the field. I enjoyed reading these stories a few at a time and then thinking about them. As Michael Dirda says at the end of his introduction, "To this day, Fantasy and Science Fiction remains, like The New Yorker, The Atlantic, or The Paris Review, one of the great fiction magazines of modern American Literature." I received an advance review copy of this forthcoming collection (July 2014) from the Goodreads First Reads program. The included stories are: "The Third Level" by Jack Finney "The Cosmic Charge Account" aka "The Cosmic Expense Account" by C. M. Kornbluth "The Country of the Kind" by Damon Knight "The Anything Box" by Zenna Henderson "The Prize of Peril" by Robert Sheckley "---All You Zombies---" by Robert A. Heinlein "A Kind of Artistry" by Brian W Aldiss "Green Magic" by Jack Vance "Narrow Valley" by R. A. Lafferty "Sundance" by Robert Silverberg "Attack of the Giant Baby" by Kit Reed "The Hundredth Dove" by Jane Yolen "Jeffty Is Five" by Harlan Ellison "Salvador" by Lucius Shepard "The Aliens Who Knew, I mean, Everything" by George Alec Effinger "Rat" by J. P. Kelly "The Friendship Light" by Gene Wolfe "The Bone Woman" by Charles de Lint "The Lincoln Train" by Maureen F. McHugh "Maneki Neko" by Bruce Sterling "Winemaster" by Robert Reed "Suicide Coast" by M. John Harrison "Have Not Have" by Geoff Ryman "The People of Sand and Slag" by Paolo Bacigalupi "Echo" by Elizabeth Hand "The New York Times at Special Bargain Rates" by Stephen King "The Paper Menagerie" by Ken Liu

  13. 5 out of 5

    David Raz

    This was my backup book for quite a while. I kept it on my cell phone and read a few pages here and there, when I got stuck in waiting rooms and such. This is probably not the ideal way to read it, and might be the reason why I can't really recall any exceptional stories. Some were decent and a few were quite redundant and not worth the time. It seems to me like the editor tried to pick a variety of styles and genres rather than collect "the best", since I doubt this is really the best of F& This was my backup book for quite a while. I kept it on my cell phone and read a few pages here and there, when I got stuck in waiting rooms and such. This is probably not the ideal way to read it, and might be the reason why I can't really recall any exceptional stories. Some were decent and a few were quite redundant and not worth the time. It seems to me like the editor tried to pick a variety of styles and genres rather than collect "the best", since I doubt this is really the best of F&SF, even not a volume 2. Overall, three stars out of five for this mixed bag.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    A bit of context for the 4 star rating: I don't find short stories satisfying as a general rule, I tend to prefer my stories on the larger side of huge, but what I do like them for is that they sometimes introduce me to writers I might not otherwise have read. If someone manages to interest me in a handful of pages, they are worth further investigation. This book delivered more than a dozen names for me to add to my Goodreads bookshelf, which makes it fantastic as far as I'm concerned. Just a so A bit of context for the 4 star rating: I don't find short stories satisfying as a general rule, I tend to prefer my stories on the larger side of huge, but what I do like them for is that they sometimes introduce me to writers I might not otherwise have read. If someone manages to interest me in a handful of pages, they are worth further investigation. This book delivered more than a dozen names for me to add to my Goodreads bookshelf, which makes it fantastic as far as I'm concerned. Just a solid collection of entertaining stories with very few that weren't really my thing.

  15. 5 out of 5

    pluton

    I read only several of the stories in full; skipped the rest after reading the beginning. Not a single one excited me at least that much to recommend it. Maybe it's just such a genre where you have to get into a new, completely different story, start understanding it… and it ends — not worthwhile as for me.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Victoria

    Really cool book. I liked how it started with stories written in the 50s and went up the 00s and started with old school sci fi stories to cyber punk but the last couple of stories were depressing as shit. I saw the movie based off of "all you zombies" and i still cant figure that shit out.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Mat

    The stories are mostly lame, including Stephen King's. Except the last one, "The Paper Menagerie" by Ken Liu, which deserves 5 stars.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Kirk

    can not even recommend one of the stories

  19. 5 out of 5

    Sandy Schmidt

    Old time science fiction and fantasy is always fascinating.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Noah

    I thought this volume was better than the first. Some dated material--Heinlein, yuck--but a lot of good stories with some especially strong ones from the last twenty years or so.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

    I received a free electronic advanced reading copy of this from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Compiling any collection with the title "Best of" is never an easy task, the category is just too subjective, particularly in something like the arts and a short story collection. Though delving only into the pages of one literary magazine, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (F&SF), the breadth of stories falling within the genre confines of its pages is hug I received a free electronic advanced reading copy of this from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Compiling any collection with the title "Best of" is never an easy task, the category is just too subjective, particularly in something like the arts and a short story collection. Though delving only into the pages of one literary magazine, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (F&SF), the breadth of stories falling within the genre confines of its pages is huge. Compared to something like "The Best American" series, which F&SF has appeared within, the tales and writing styles here are far more diverse, but just as mighty. The difficulty in really having a definitive, all-encompassing, all-pleasing 'best of' collection has in the past simply led me to avoid reading short story anthologies. I already read the new stories that come out, and after a while isn't that sufficient? If you've been reading these longer than I (and most fans have) there's probably even less new or unfamiliar out there. Thinking it wasn't really worth it, I remember simply ignoring the first volume compiled by current F&SF editor Van Gelder. But since then I've come to develop an appreciation for these anthologies, even when they aren't full of stories I would consider to be 'the best', or even if there are a few in there which I don't particularly enjoy. I've discovered there are other reasons to read a "Best of" collection despite that term not aligning with my personal opinions. First, as alluded to within the intro to this volume, the stories here are all notable in the history of the genre, and the authors are ones any interested fan should have some experience reading. It simply is a matter of education. This collection gives an excellent survey across the decades of F&SF publication with tales that have largely withstood the test of time, right up to modern classics that sent ripples of wonder through the reading community upon their publication (like Ken Liu's beautiful story here). There are so many authors whose names I know, but I have never read. I have a hard enough time reading interesting new things to also go back and read all the range of classics. Now, at least I can check a few more classic authors off my list - or perhaps more honestly add them to my list of things to read more of ASAP. Second, this sort of "Best of" collection gives new readers the opportunity to discover that wide breadth of the fantasy and science (speculative) fiction genres, experiencing notable stories that vary from hard SF, to humor, to high fantasy, to urban fantasy, to dark horror, to genre mashups, etc. You don't have to like everything. But if you like to read in general, you'll probably find appreciation for most of the stories here. Because all of the stories here are most certainly notable, even if not 'the best'. They show to all readers, both new initiates or seasoned veterans who are re-experiencing, what a well-crafted story can look like in its myriad forms. With the chronological presentation through the decades of F&SF publication, the collection also gives glimpses into the changing styles or motifs of eras, and demonstrates just how greatly the earliest stories in the genre continue to inspire and shape current writing. At least four of the stories here I have read before (and "Echo" I am about to read again in another collection of Elizabeth Hand's work). Three of those four I recall liking greatly, but Stephen King's story I had no particular memory of, other than that I had read it. I wondered if its inclusion (and King's) was simply due to the celebrity of his name, to attract more readers. When I first came to F&SF, the knowledge that King, as a popular author I knew, had published works in its pages was a huge draw to trying it out. So I wouldn't blame the editor for putting King in for that primary reason. Perhaps it is the wisdom of experience from a few scant years, but I was pleasantly surprised to be so affected by his story here, to read something far more resonant and profound than I had expected based on a memory (or lack thereof). This just goes to show how re-reading notable stories - even if from the opinion of someone else - is beneficial. It's been awhile since I've read King, but this made me wish he'd continue getting inspiration for short fiction writing - and publication in markets like F&SF. The other stories here that were new to me I responded to much as what I would expect from a typical stellar issue of F&SF: many excellent, a few enjoyable but throwaway, and a couple that just weren't my thing. You may react differently to individual stories here than I, but I suspect that if you are a fan of the genre, then you'll also enjoy a similar high percentage of these. If you happen to be rather new to the genres, have never read the magazine, or are just a casual reader who only recognizes Stephen King in the table of contents, give this collection a try and discover what literary universe is out there for you to enjoy and explore further.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    I read the first volume (The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction: Sixtieth Anniversary Anthology, published 2009) before I tackled this one. It's only been five years, but I detected a darkening of the tone. Maybe I'm imagining it, maybe it's just me, but it seemed to me that the earlier volume contained stories that set out to go to strange places and, as a consequence, were sometimes disturbing, while this one contained stories that set out to be disturbing. Consequently, given that "dar I read the first volume (The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction: Sixtieth Anniversary Anthology, published 2009) before I tackled this one. It's only been five years, but I detected a darkening of the tone. Maybe I'm imagining it, maybe it's just me, but it seemed to me that the earlier volume contained stories that set out to go to strange places and, as a consequence, were sometimes disturbing, while this one contained stories that set out to be disturbing. Consequently, given that "dark and disturbing" isn't my preference, I very nearly gave this one three stars instead of four - reflecting my reduced enjoyment, not reduced quality. These are still fine stories from multiple decades of F&SF; I just didn't like them, overall, as much as the ones in Volume 1. Looking over the table of contents, there are actually several humorous stories early on: Kornbluth's "The Cosmic Charge Account" with its parody of self-help books (and the publishing industry), Lafferty's "Narrow Valley," Kit Reed's "Attack of the Giant Baby," "The Aliens Who Knew, I mean, Everything" by George Alec Effinger. The problem is that, while they're a bit funny, they're not very funny, certainly not enough to balance out the extreme darkness of "The Hundredth Dove," "Salvador," "Rat," "The Lincoln Train," "Suicide Coast" or "The People of Sand & Slag," with their alienated protagonists afflicted with meaningless tragedy. For my taste, any collection with stories by Ursula Le Guin and Neil Gaiman (like the first one) is thereby made more enjoyable, and any collection with stories by Gene Wolfe or M. John Harrison (like the second one) is thereby made less enjoyable. But that's just me. Harlan Ellison and Stephen King are, I think, the only writers with stories in both volumes (the contents listed above includes Roger Zelazny's "The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth," but it wasn't in the version I reviewed, at least). I actually thought their stories in this volume were better than those in the first, and if the Zelazny story had been included the same would be true. In both cases, the stories felt more intimate, closer to the main characters, and were, therefore, more touching. Also touching was Ken Liu's beautiful "The Paper Menagerie". I love how Liu explores issues of family and human relationships with a spec-fic thread running through, and it was probably the choice of this as the closing story that tipped me, barely, over to giving the book four stars. I received a copy via NetGalley for purposes of review.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    This was originally reviewed at my blog "Relentlessly Reading - And Writing About It". Check it out for more reviews. In 2009 Tachyon paid tribute to "The Magazine Fantasy & Science Fiction" magazine's 60th anniversary with The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction, an exquisite anthology the featured some of the finest short fiction ever published, including Kurt Vonnegut's "Harrison Bergeron", Daniel Keyes' "Flowers for Algernon" and Shirley Jackson's "An Ordinary Day, With Peanuts". T This was originally reviewed at my blog "Relentlessly Reading - And Writing About It". Check it out for more reviews. In 2009 Tachyon paid tribute to "The Magazine Fantasy & Science Fiction" magazine's 60th anniversary with The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction, an exquisite anthology the featured some of the finest short fiction ever published, including Kurt Vonnegut's "Harrison Bergeron", Daniel Keyes' "Flowers for Algernon" and Shirley Jackson's "An Ordinary Day, With Peanuts". This year they've brought us Volume Two. And it is a welcome follow-up. The story lineup isn't quite as stellar, but it is still pretty damn impressive – from classics like Robert Heinlein's "All You Zombies" and Harlan Ellison's "Jeffty Is Five" to modern offerings including Paolo Bacigalupi's "The People of Sand and Slag" and Ken Liu's 2011 offering "The Paper Menagerie", which became the only work to win the triple crown of Hugo, Nebula and World Fantasy Awards. Some of the stories, especially the Heinlein, show their ages, but the collection demonstrates F&SF's knack for showcasing the best writers of its time. Favorite stories include Jack Finney's "The Third Level", a 1952 offering about a man who finds a lower level in Grand Central Station that acts as a portal to another time. It has a dreamlike feel reminiscent of Neil Gaiman. The Prize of Peril" by Robert Sheckley was another welcome find. The 1956 story predicted the reality TV boom of the 21st Century. The titular TV show features a protagonist being hunted to death on a TV show, complete with a game-show announcer and call-in "Good Samaritans" who offer assistance to the hero. Shades of Stephen King's The Running Man? I truly heard Richard Dawson's voice whenever the announcer spoke. But Liu's offering was the story I most anticipated. And it was the most rewarding, a touching tale of Jack, a Chinese-American boy growing up trapped between two cultures. His mother was a mail-order bride mother who fled the Cultural Revolution and seeks to share her culture with Jack through magical origami animals. As he grows older he rejects her and his Chinese ancestry, but ultimately rediscovers his heritage through those forgotten folded-paper toys. The beautiful story deserves every accolade it has received. Other authors featured in the collection include Jack Vance ("Green Magic"), Gene Wolfe ("The Friendship Light"), Brian Aldiss ("A Kind of Artistry"), Geoff Ryman ("Have Not Have"), Bruce Sterling ("Maneki Neko"), Charles DeLint (The Bone Woman") and even Stephen King "The New York Times at Special Bargain Rates".

  24. 4 out of 5

    Lis Ann - The Indigo Quill

    See full review @ The Indigo Quill Special thank you to NetGalley and Tachyon Publications for providing an ARC of this title in exchange for an honest review. The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction vol. 2 is the second compendium of the most famous and well written short stories to ever grace the pages of an already prolific magazine through its 65 year history. Fantasy and Science Fiction magazine has been the premier publication for the genre, and has showcased some of the most inventiv See full review @ The Indigo Quill Special thank you to NetGalley and Tachyon Publications for providing an ARC of this title in exchange for an honest review. The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction vol. 2 is the second compendium of the most famous and well written short stories to ever grace the pages of an already prolific magazine through its 65 year history. Fantasy and Science Fiction magazine has been the premier publication for the genre, and has showcased some of the most inventive and creative writers in any genre. I love these short story compilation books. Getting to experience different worlds, characters, atmospheres and themes every 20 pages or so is a real treat sometimes. Even more of a treat is the fact that each story was incredible in its own right. Before each story is a blurb about the author and some background on the stories wherever possible. This really helps you change gears from story to story and helps to give a greater appreciation for the work in relation to the era it was written. The stories themselves cover the full spectrum of sci-fi and fantasy and speculative fiction. Everything from the classic styles to contemporary and Avant-Garde pieces found their place amongst the pages. I salute the editor for avoiding a common pitfall with compilations, by including a bit of everything instead of sticking to one type or subgenre or style. On top of that, every story was interesting and entertaining; really showing off where Sci-Fi & fantasy has come from and where they are going. That being said, even the older stories didn’t show their age in a bad way. Usually it’s easy for me to pick a favorite and least favorite story in a compilation such as this, however I found that I enjoyed them all, and never found myself trying to speed through one to get to the next. They all have such different subject matter and style that picking one favorite would be a futile exercise. The setting and gritty futuristic feel in Winemaster was one that I enjoyed but I could just as easily pick any title out of a hat and tell you all the things I enjoyed about it. If I had to find anything negative about it, it would be that the titles could have used a bit of organization, and possibly some more background info about the stories and authors, but really that is nit-picking. Any fan of sci-fi, horror, fantasy or plain old fiction would be happy to count this collection as a part of their own.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Leah

    Drifting genres... This is an anthology of twenty-seven stories first published in the long-running magazine Fantasy & Science Fiction and includes tales from some very well-known names – Robert A Heinlein, Brian W Aldiss etc. The stories are very evenly spaced over the last sixty years, with roughly a two or three year gap between each. This means it really gives a good impression of how the genre has developed over time, which oddly is both the main strength and main weakness of the book. B Drifting genres... This is an anthology of twenty-seven stories first published in the long-running magazine Fantasy & Science Fiction and includes tales from some very well-known names – Robert A Heinlein, Brian W Aldiss etc. The stories are very evenly spaced over the last sixty years, with roughly a two or three year gap between each. This means it really gives a good impression of how the genre has developed over time, which oddly is both the main strength and main weakness of the book. Because what it seems to show is that somewhere round about the late ’70s/early ’80s, sci-fi morphed into fantasy and then gradually splintered off into subgenres like cyberpunk and even, to my great sadness, the hideousness of ‘magical realism’ (a term that should be taken out and shot at dawn for allowing authors to resolve plot problems by waving a literary magic wand and spouting a bit of mumbo-jumbo). Now, that’s all very well if you like that kind of thing, but frankly I don’t (as the discerning amongst you may already have spotted), and as a result I became increasingly disappointed as the book went on. Some of the stories were so far from being sci-fi or even fantasy that had they not been collected under this umbrella I’d have found it hard to classify them at all. That’s not to say the stories are bad. A few of them are excellent and many are good. But a few are a bit dull and several seemed to me to be far too long for their content – perhaps a throwback to the days when writers were paid to write to a given length. A couple of the more modern ones I abandoned as we gradually sank into the modern habit of replacing adjectives with profanities and imagination with drugs and violence. There are some standout stories in the collection, including CM Kornbluth’s The Cosmic Expense Account, Damon Knight’s The Country of the Kind, Robert A Heinlein’s All You Zombies and Sundance by Robert Silverberg. But overall the variability in quality combined with the drift in genres as it progresses means I find it hard to recommend it wholeheartedly. Interesting to die-hard sci-fi/fantasy fans or for someone like myself who’s looking to see what happened to the genre over the years, but I’m not convinced by the ‘Very Best’ claim – there’s plenty of older stuff that’s better than most of this and I’m still hoping to find better new stuff too. NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Tachyon Publications. www.fictionfanblog.wordpress.com

  26. 4 out of 5

    Metaphorosis

    reviews.metaphorosis.com 3.5 stars A second volume of F&SF's best, as selected by its current editor. Any anthology that starts with Jack Finney can't be all bad, even if it is one of Finney's weaker stories. There's a slew of other good authors in here as well (though again not always with their best work). This is the second Best of selection from F&SF's history, and there's a lot here - 27 stories, in just over 450 pages. I'd hope for a 'Best of' to be pretty darned good, especially when reviews.metaphorosis.com 3.5 stars A second volume of F&SF's best, as selected by its current editor. Any anthology that starts with Jack Finney can't be all bad, even if it is one of Finney's weaker stories. There's a slew of other good authors in here as well (though again not always with their best work). This is the second Best of selection from F&SF's history, and there's a lot here - 27 stories, in just over 450 pages. I'd hope for a 'Best of' to be pretty darned good, especially when drawing from such a well-known magazine. And the stories are good; there are few real clunkers here. I was disappointed, though, to find that relatively few stories that really stood out. Mostly, it was the standard anthology story reaction of "That was pretty good." One exception was the Harlan Ellison story, "Jeffty is Five". I know of Ellison more from his anthologies than his original fiction, though I've read some of that as well. If you don't, this story will change that for you. It's simple urban SFF that's not in my usual line, but the story is so well put together that I got excited anyway. Part predictable but smooth, part shocker, it's a terrific example of a very well crafted story. I got this book as a free ARC, but if the list price isn't too high, it will be worth it for this story alone. Other good stories: "-All You Zombies-", by Robert Heinlein, from the days when he was clever and fun. "Green Magic", by Jack Vance.  "The Country of the Kind", by Damon Knight. A new one for me, both interesting and effective. "The Anything Box", by Zenna Henderson. A good, moving story I had forgotten about. "Narrow Valley", by R. A. Lafferty. Light-hearted fun. "The Aliens Who Knew, I Mean, Everything", by George Alec Effinger. I'd only read his Marid Audran novels before. This was a clever and funny surprise. "The Paper Menagerie", by Ken Liu. Won lots of awards, and deservedly so. Overall, a good collection of stories, but not as good as I'd anticipated from the title. NB: Received free copy from Net Galley. 

  27. 4 out of 5

    Zeb Kantrowitz

    The editor of this collection, Gordon Van Gelder, is himself the winner of a Locus, World Fantasy and two-time Hugo Award winner, and has been the editor of F&SF since 1996. At F&SF he has worked with some of the best known SF writers over the last three decades. Being with most of the most accomplished writers of Fantasy and Sci-Fi, he has put together this compellation from the 1950s though to 2008. The first story is from 1950, Jack Finney’s “The Third Level”, it includes stories by su The editor of this collection, Gordon Van Gelder, is himself the winner of a Locus, World Fantasy and two-time Hugo Award winner, and has been the editor of F&SF since 1996. At F&SF he has worked with some of the best known SF writers over the last three decades. Being with most of the most accomplished writers of Fantasy and Sci-Fi, he has put together this compellation from the 1950s though to 2008. The first story is from 1950, Jack Finney’s “The Third Level”, it includes stories by such legendary writers as C M Kornbluth, Damon Knight, Brian W Aldiss, Jack Vance, R A Lafferty, Robert Silverberg and Harlan Ellison. The stories range from pure fantasy to the ‘hard’ science fiction made famous by Isaac Asimov. Some of the themes of the 23 stories are as follows: • A young southern girl being relocated out west during the civil war, but in the way that Stalin relocated people during the “Great Terror, • How the coming of the internet upsets the timeless balance of a community, • A 1970ish story of dreams enhanced by LSD, • A Dystopian story of people living in a “new” medieval society, • The world that exists underneath Grand Central Station, • Grand Central as a way-station for souls leaving this world, And my personal favorite by Harlan Ellison “Jeffty is Five” about a child in the stasis of a five year old while the world around him continues to go on in that timeline and his effect on all those around him. What makes this collection especially impressive, is the structuring and use of the stories to show the changing styles and talents of authors through the last 60 years. So much of what was talked about and written about in the 1930s and 1940s have become reality, and that stories from the 60s and 70s seem more like news-stories than SciFi. Fantasy has matured from Tolkien and Robert Howard, to the romantics and gothics of today’s top writers. This is a great addition to the library of any serious reader of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Zeb Kantrowitz zworstblog.blogspot.com

  28. 4 out of 5

    Laura Ruetz

    My father used to get this magazine and he would have to hide it from me or I would read it first and then stash it in my room. When I got older and moved out, I had my own subscription but that was ages ago. I was so happy to have seen this book at the library because I knew that it would contain a treasure trove of stories and I was not disappointed. Many of the authors are some of my favorites (Jane Yolen, Stephen King, Gene Wolfe, Charles de Lint, Robert Silverberg, Harlan Ellison, etc. and My father used to get this magazine and he would have to hide it from me or I would read it first and then stash it in my room. When I got older and moved out, I had my own subscription but that was ages ago. I was so happy to have seen this book at the library because I knew that it would contain a treasure trove of stories and I was not disappointed. Many of the authors are some of my favorites (Jane Yolen, Stephen King, Gene Wolfe, Charles de Lint, Robert Silverberg, Harlan Ellison, etc. and this group of stories has something for everybody. Some are poignant, some are dark, others are straight fantasy and then you also have disturbing stories of darker fantasy and, to my delight, cyber punk. Although I could write about every story in here, because frankly, there were no stories that I disliked, I will highlight just some of the stories that stood out to me. The last story in the book is by Ken Liu, who I was not familiar with. His story The Paper Menagerie had everything that a great story has, it invokes a deep emotional reaction from you. In short, if you are not affected by this moving and poignant short story, you have no soul. The New York Times at Special Bargain Rates was Stephen's King's contribution, a story that everybody who has ever lost somebody to a tragedy will want to read. Who wouldn't want just one last call..one last time to hear their voice? James Patrick Kelly gives us Rat, a gritty and dark story with cyber punk elements. Jeffty is Five by Harlan Ellison has just as much impact as it has the first few times I have read it. For humor, R. A. Lafferty gives us Narrow Valley. These are but handful of the magic and mystery that you will find in this book. If you love fantasy, there is something that will speak to you in this book. My only regret is that I checked this out from the library instead of buying it.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Robert

    Overall I found 80% of the stories in this book very good to excellent. Two or three would be a bit of a stretch to classify as fantasy or scifi but even though were still well written if not particularly to my liking. Now that said there were three or four excellent stories and chronologically they saved the best for last, The Paper Menagerie. I can understand why this story won the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards the year it was written and Fantasy and Science Fiction magazine must have Overall I found 80% of the stories in this book very good to excellent. Two or three would be a bit of a stretch to classify as fantasy or scifi but even though were still well written if not particularly to my liking. Now that said there were three or four excellent stories and chronologically they saved the best for last, The Paper Menagerie. I can understand why this story won the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards the year it was written and Fantasy and Science Fiction magazine must have leapt on it when given the chance to publish it. Other notables to me were the Stephen King story, the Harlan Ellison story, and the Paolo Bacigalupi story. If you like to read short stories in these two genres I would recommend this book.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Justin Covey

    The first volume holds a special place in my heart for introducing me to The Deathbird by Harlan Ellison, which I consider to be one of the greatest short stories. This volume earns a similar place for introducing me to The Paper Menagerie by Ken Lui, a crushingly beautiful, elegiac story. I was also pleased to see that this volume included a work by Gene Wolfe that was new to me, and The Friendship Light is a nice example of his puzzle box approach to story telling.

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