Thursday, 21 January 2010

The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction: 60th Anniversary (Book Review)

Gordon Van Gelder has been the editor of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction since 1996. Mr. Van Gelder prepared brief paragraphs to introduce each of the short fiction selections of when it was first published in the magazine. He also included a little background on the authors which I found to be a nice touch.

I have placed the year behind the author’s name to indicate the year the story was published in the magazine.

Of Time and Third Avenue by Alfred Bester, 1951

A brilliant piece of short fiction to start: a meeting of present and future with consequences. It stands the test of time to reread again and again to delight the senses.

All Summer in a Day by Ray Bradbury, 1954

Venus has endured seven years of continuous rain and school students are skeptical of a scientist’s prediction of no rain for one specified hour of a day where the sun will be seen.

One Ordinary Day, with Peanuts by Shirley Jackson, 1955

Shirley Jackson is best remembered for writing “The Lottery”. In this tale, a man performs multiple good deeds throughout the day with a nice twist at the end.

A Touch of Strange by Theodore Sturgeon, 1958

A man and a woman swim out to make their rendezvous with a mermaid and merman just before moonrise.

Eastward Ho! by William Tenn, 1958

This is a wonderful piece of speculative fiction where the aboriginal natives of North America are in control of the United States.

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes, 1959

A timeless story of a medical experiment with tragic results, which has held my fascination even after many years when I read it in high school for an English class. The prose remains fresh and keeps the reader spellbound to the pages.

Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut, 1961

An excellent speculative parable of what might happen when certain types of behaviour are controlled.

This Moment of the Storm by Roger Zelazny, 1966

Life on a far off planet with bizarre predator life forms which come out of the forests during rainstorms.

The Electric Ant by Philip K. Dick, 1969

An executive learns the dark side of his reality.

The Deathbird by Harlan Ellison, 1973

This story contained many convoluted sections that I found distracting. One section I did enjoy was about a Puli.

The Women Men Don’t See by James Tiptree, Jr., 1973

A quirky fun adventure of a downed plane in the Yucatan with the perfect last sentence: “Two of our opossums are missing.”

I See You by Damon Knight, 1976

The forerunner to infrared spying: wonderful stuff.

The Gunslinger by Stephen King, 1978

Although I’m not much of a fan of this author, I did find the bits about the crow entertaining in this futurist look at the old west.

The Dark by Karen Joy Fowler, 1991

Excellent story leading the reader from intriguing scenarios to creepy with a satisfying ending.

Buffalo by John Kessel, 1991

John Kessel meets H.G. Wells in Buffalo with interesting results.

Solitude by Ursula K Le Guin, 1994

A woman observes life on a far-off planet while her children are able to mingle with the native humans and adapt while she does not. This reminded me a little of “Lord of the Flies”.

Mother Grasshopper by Michael Swanick, 1998

This story wasn’t for me. I’m sure others will enjoy it.

macs by Terry Bisson, 1999

Robots cloned from a human and were expected to be returned to the government within thirty days: dead. This is an interesting premise underlying this story of government manipulation of its citizens.

Creation by Jeffrey Ford, 2002

After reading that God had created man, a boy creates a stick man named Cavanagh using his father’s breath.

Other People by Neil Gaiman, 2001

A man forced to deal with the consequences of his life’s choices in the afterlife.

Two Hearts by Peter S. Beagle, 2005

Several characters from “The Last Unicorn” join forces to face a griffon terrorizing a village. Excellent.

Journey into the Kingdom by M. Rickert, 2007

This was a story I was unable to get into. Others may find it to their liking.

The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate by Ted Chiang, 2007

Lovely story set in Arabian Night style like Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves with time travel. Various characters learn about their other selves by entering the Gate of Years, twenty years in the future or the past.

All in all this was a great anthology book to get into while knowing that each of the stories would be relatively short.

A special thank you to Matt Staggs for providing this book for my review.

Book format: paperback, 475 pages
Publisher: Tachycon Publications
Publication Date: September 2009

Available at:


Charles Gramlich said...

I really loved early SF when it was a genre of ideas. I lost a lot of intrest when it became so focused on sociology and psychology, but there has always been some good stuff all along. This is a pretty good list. I've read pretty much all the earlier stuff.

David Cranmer said...

Very insightful mini-reviews. This is the kind of collection I'm fond of buying. I only dip in this genre for the best and it sounds like this compilation is it.

RuneE said...

That might be a book even I might like to read :-)

pattinase (abbott) said...

Looks like a wonderful collection. Don't think I've read that Jackson story either.

Reb said...

Sounds like something I would enjoy. Like you I am not a King fan, but I do enjoy many of the other authors mentioned.

Barbara Martin said...

Charles, I prefer the older stories as well.

David, the magazine has many fine stories which would make the selection difficult.

RuneE, you wouldn't be disappointed.