The Big Book of Science Fiction

The Big Book of Science Fiction

Book - 2016
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What if life was neverending? What if you could change your body to adapt to an alien ecology? What if the pope were a robot? Spanning galaxies and millennia, this must-have anthology showcases classic contributions from H. G. Wells, Arthur C. Clarke, Octavia E. Butler, and Kurt Vonnegut, alongside a century of the eccentrics, rebels, and visionaries who have inspired generations of readers. Within its pages, you’ll find beloved worlds of space opera, hard SF, cyberpunk, the New Wave, and more. Learn about the secret history of science fiction, from titans of literature who also wrote SF to less well-known authors from more than twenty-five countries, some never before translated into English. In The Big Book of Science Fiction, literary power couple Ann and Jeff VanderMeer transport readers from Mars to Mechanopolis, planet Earth to parts unknown. Immerse yourself in the genre that predicted electric cars, space tourism, and smartphones. Sit back, buckle up, and dial in the coordinates, as this stellar anthology has got worlds within worlds.
Publisher: New York :, Vintage Crime/Black Lizard, Vintage Books,, 2016
ISBN: 9781101910092
1101910097
Characteristics: xxxi, 1,178 pages ; 24 cm

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scottwill
Oct 09, 2017

This is a book well worth hauling home from the library. It should more properly be titled The Big [Historical] Book of [Short] Science Fiction. As a genre, SF does not age well. Aside from the literary deficiencies of its "golden" era, it is defined by the novelty of its ideas, which time renders either commonplace or, in passing them by, ridiculous. I read from the end (most recent stories) to about the middle - at which point it becomes more archaeology than pleasure reading - and found 28 out of 65 to be readable, or better. As a jaded fan active since the 1960s, this is a pretty good score, better than the usual annual best collections. These are short stories; authors who do mainly or only novels may be unrepresented, or tarred with inferior work. There is no fantasy or slipstream, but far from all "hard" SF. The editors tried to represent trends and movements within SF, as well as subgenres (but missed post-apocalyptic). If you are not a regular reader of one of the genre magazines, or reviews and criticism, the introduction is a great analysis of the field's history. There's a bit of posturing here, emphasizing social relevance, especially women authors and ecological themes. I had high hopes for the many new translations of foreign-language works, but found most of them baffling. In fact, from this selection one might think that the genre, as we know it, hardly exists outside of the English language. The author bios, though litanies of awards, are often insightful and illuminate their positions within the field and the importance of the works chosen. Two standout stories are George R.R. Martin's "Sandkings," a darkish tale more reminiscent of Stephen King than his later fantasy work, and "Swarm," by Bruce Sterling, a story rich in the wonder of the strange, and challenging to our assumptions about the value of intelligence itself.

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