intense sensations

Buy this for its feel and heft and smell

Posted on: November 27, 2011

The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year Volume 4The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year Volume 4 by Jonathan Strahan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

What is the point of fantasy? I’ll tell you. It’s there to give reviewers of hard core pornography something to plug the gap after their sexual appetites have been slaked and they find themselves at a loose end in the middle of a long, lonely, sleepless night. So, having been afflicted with a lazy libido recently, I picked up a copy of The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year Volume 4 by Jonathan Strahan published by Nightshade Books of San Francisco.

I have to tell you, I needed to pop some stamina pills just to get it home. It’s a substantial slab and not quite the ticket when you’re feeling under par. But I’ve been brainwashed by all those blogs about how books are dying and, feeling sorry for traditional publishers, I thought that even if the stories were flimsy, at least this book had a feel, a heft and a smell. What a feel and what a heft! Though the smell, in all fairness, is so-so.

Kij Johnson has two stories in this volume, so there’s a better than average chance, if you flick through it at random, that you’ll stop at one of hers. My flicking was not quite at random. I scanned the contents pages and did some incredibly fast and semi-random computations using a secret Chinese arithmetic formula to find the shortest story, and it turned out to be Spar.

Oh, God!

It begins:

“In the tiny lifeboat, she and the alien fuck endlessly, relentlessly.”

My first thought was “I’d better write a review of this.” My second thought was “Amazon won’t let me post it.”

There in the first sentence is the whole plot of the story. That’s it, really. She and the alien just fuck relentlessly.

Next I read what is probably the second-shortest story, called Ferryman by Margo Lanagan. The plot of this was quite sophisticated. In fact it drew me in and I enjoyed it, even though I was half-asleep (and emotionally drained after all that fucking.) But being half asleep is appropriate when reading a story about Lethe.

Jo Walton cheated with her story, which would have been the shortest in the collection if she hadn’t cobbled it together from three stories. It’s called Three Twilight Tales. It was pretty good.

I started to read JoBoy by Diana Wynne Jones next but I dozed off and can’t remember a thing about it.

You’ll have to read the rest of the stories for yourself and form your own opinion because, let’s face it, it’s an anthology. It’s for dipping into as and when…

But I’ll only give it 3 stars because I’ve also been reading a much more exciting collection of stories all of which, by the way, happen to have been written by the same man, and they’re all brilliant, so why on earth he isn’t represented in this so-called “best of…” is a question I’d like to put to Jonathan Strahan at some point, preferably when I’m feeling stronger, as he has quite a heft himself, though I know nothing of his feel and smell.

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