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The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror:…

The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror: Twenty-First Annual Collection

by Ellen Datlow (Editor), Gavin J. Grant (Editor), Kelly Link (Editor)

Other authors: Daniel Abraham (Contributor), M. T. Anderson (Contributor), Nathalie Anderson (Contributor), Nathan Ballingrud (Contributor), Laird Barron (Contributor)40 more, Holly Black (Contributor), Chaz Brenchley (Contributor), Edward Bryant (Foreword), Thomas Canty (Cover artist), Ted Chiang (Contributor), Billy Collins (Contributor), Charles de Lint (Foreword), Terry Dowling (Contributor), Jeffrey Ford (Contributor), Karen Joy Fowler (Contributor), James Frenkel (Foreword), Eliza Griswold (Contributor), Eileen Gunn (Contributor), Elizabeth Hand (Contributor), Jack M. Haringa (Contributor), Kij Johnson (Contributor), Lucy Kemnitzer (Contributor), Tanith Lee (Contributor), Alexander MacBride (Contributor), Khaled Mattawa (Contributor), Gary McMahon (Contributor), Donald Mead (Contributor), Tim Nickels (Contributor), Garth Nix (Contributor), Joyce Carol Oates (Contributor), Reggie Oliver (Contributor), Paul Park (Contributor), M. Rickert (Contributor), Karen Russell (Contributor), Veronica Schanoes (Contributor), Delia Sherman (Author), Maggie Smith (Contributor), William Browning Spencer (Contributor), Sonya Taaffe (Contributor), Don Tumasonis (Contributor), Lisa Tuttle (Contributor), Catherynne M. Valente (Contributor), Jeff VanderMeer (Foreword), Paul Walther (Contributor), Liz Williams (Contributor)

Series: Year's Best Fantasy and Horror (21 2008)

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Showing 4 of 4
As with most anthologies, there are two losers for every enjoyable story. In this case, though, I generally disliked stories purely because they did not fit to my personal taste. (A few too many were pretentious stories about the mystical ways of writers.) Still, it was a nice change from disliking stories because they're sloppy cliched messes.

I enjoyed:
"The Cambist and Lord Iron: A fairy tale of economics" by Daniel Abraham. A debauched lord with unlimited wealth and power finds amusement out of setting unsolvable riddles to a humble money-changer.

"The Last Worders" by Karen Joy Fowler. Twin sisters think precisely alike--until a small betrayal that tears them forever assunder.

"Winter's Wife" by Elizabeth Hand. A young boy observes his mysterious neighbor Winter, and Winter's equally fascinating and obscure new wife from Iceland. I love the magic here.

"A Reversal of Fortune" by Holly Black. Black is one of the very few authors who can write believable lower class teenager protagonists. Nikki lives in a trailer park with her erstwhile brother and devoted dog, and spends the summer missing her best friend and getting most of her calories from candy stolen from her job. When her dog is hit by her crush's truck, she challenges the devil to a candy-eating contest: she could win her dog's life, or lose her soul. Luckily, Nikki is as clever and gutsy as she is stubborn.

"The Boulder" by Lucy Kemnitzer is a well-crafted modern perspective on the classic "stolen beneath the Hill" fairy tale.

"The Hill" by Tanith Lee. The only one of the "horror" stories herein to actually have a scary moment. Disturbing imagery and a great concept, but the real strength here is the main character's sensible inner voice. The ending spends a little too much time explaining every bit of the mystery, but Lee does a good job of laying the clues throughout the story.

"Lovers: (Jaafar the Winged)" by Khaled Mattawa is the only poem I liked in this collection, despite Billy Collins's inclusion.

"Sir Hereward and Mister Fitz Go to War Again" by Garth Nix is a great adventure story. Nix is a true adept at creating interesting fantasy worlds and relatable heroes. Hereward is a mercenary knight who likes fine clothes, scarred lovers, and his former nursemaid, current companion, the ensorcelled puppet Fitz.

The anthology ends with the excellent "The Evolution of Trickster Stories Among the Dogs of North Park After the Change" by Kij Johnson. The animals of Earth all learned to speak in the same moment, but their newfound ability to communicate makes their former loving owners wary, shamed, and distrustful. Really interesting meditation on slavery and trust. ( )
  wealhtheowwylfing | Feb 29, 2016 |
This is a huge omnibus of 36 stories and 7 poems as chosen by Ellen Datlow for works premiering in 2008. With so much to choose from, there are some wonderful standouts and some that just made me go, "Huh?" (luckily, only 3 of them made me do that). I read this throughout February (a story or sometimes two each night before bed), and now I just want all of the collections I don't have yet.

Here are some of my notes:

The Forest by Laird Barron - feels like you have to be high to appreciate it

The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate by Ted Chiang - an Egyptian fable about a Gate of Years which transports you 20 years into a fixed future - I really liked this one

Rats - by Veronica Schanoes - a familiar, darkly modernized fairy tale .. with rats - I liked this one too

The Swing by Don Tumasonis - where a swing appears to swallow up young girls - I liked this one, but it was one of those reads where you really need to pay attention to catch all of the nuances

My two favorites:

The Fiddler of Bayou Teche by Delia Sherman - about a girl named Cadence with white skin, hair, and pink eyes who was found in the swamp by loup-garous (werewolves) and raised by Tante Eulalie, a woman with many gifts, including healing, in her self-imposed swamp exile. Cadence eventually finds herself in a battle with a fiddler who can "fiddle the Devil out of Hell."

Winter's Wife by Elizabeth Hand - In Shaker Harbor, ME, Roderick Gale Winter, much beloved by his neighbors, including 15-year-old Justin, takes a wife from Iceland (Vaia). In Roderick's house, huldu folk reside as carvings in the beams of the house. When the King's Pines, three majestic pines near the water, are threatened by a wealthy and selfish area developer, strange happenings abound.

I love collections like these, and as I said before, reading this one made me put the others on my to-buy list. If you like fantastically dark tales, this is probably a collection you'll want too.

BOOK RATING: 4.5 out of 5 stars ( )
  jewelknits | Mar 13, 2011 |
The twenty-first (and, unfortunately, final) installment of this long-running anthology series.

There's some very good stuff here, starting with the summations. I generally find these pretty interesting, but this year's round-up was awesome. Both the Fantasy and Horror sections reminded me of some novels I'd like to get my hands on, but the real TBR-breaker came when the editors began discussing anthologies and collections. I've discovered any number of wonderful authors through the YBF&H series, and many of my favourites released short fiction collections in 2007. Onto the wishlist they go!

There are also some remarkable stories herein. I've gotta tell you, I did the happy dance when I saw Ted Chiang's name in the TOC. He's yet another author whose complete works I must seek out and greedily devour one of these days, and "The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate" was every bit as wonderful as I expected it to be. It's an Eastern-inspired tale that plays with storytelling conventions in some interesting ways. Eastern fairy tales and folk stories utilize a different sort of logic than their Western counterparts. I find that there's a much larger awareness of the ways in which all stories are connected. Chiang recognizes this, and he uses it to great effect.

Other stand-outs included "The Cambist and Lord Iron: A Fairy Tale of Economics" by Daniel Abraham, "Sir Hereward and Mister Fitz Go To War Again" by Garth Nix, "The Fiddler of Bayou Teche" by Delia Sherman, "Rats" by Veronica Schanoes and "The Evolution of Trickster Stories Among the Dogs of North Park After the Change" by Kij Johnson. I read the last with my own dog sitting on my lap, and I teared up more than a little. As an added bonus, a few of these stories are available for free online. Link and Grant have linked to them from their page for this book.

There were also a fair number of very good stories and poems; not stand-outs, exactly, but stories I'm glad to have read. The problem is that there are an equal number of stories and poems that did nothing for me--and by nothing, I mean nothing. I normally find that Datlow, Link and Grant select stories that show such an exemplary grasp of craft that I can appreciate them on a technical level even when the story itself falls flat for me. That wasn't the case here. All too often, I finished the piece and wondered who I could apply to to get my twenty minutes back. The writing was nothing particularly special. There seemed to be a lot of non-sequiturs. The endings often felt disconnected from the rest of the story. And this wasn't an infrequent occurrence; it happened over, and over, and over.


The collection is still worth reading for the summations and some of the stories, but it wasn't such a treat as some of the previous installments. I'd say the summations and a few of the stories are solidly in 4-star territory, but there were enough stories I'd rate at 3-stars and below that I can't whole-heartedly recommend the collection.

(A slightly different version of this review originally appeared on my blog, Stella Matutina). ( )
1 vote xicanti | Nov 29, 2009 |
Good, solid collection. My favorite authors were:
  • Chaz Brenchley

  • Ted Chiang

  • Veronica Schanoes

  • Lucy Kemnitzer

  • Liz Williams

  • Lisa Tuttle
( )
1 vote Jaie22 | Jan 5, 2009 |
Showing 4 of 4
Alas, the last volume in the series is a kind of low-key assemblage of stories of which only a few are up to the expected quality level.
added by Shortride | editSF Site, Mario Guslandi (Mar 15, 2009)

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Datlow, EllenEditorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Grant, Gavin J.Editormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Link, KellyEditormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Abraham, DanielContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Anderson, M. T.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Anderson, NathalieContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ballingrud, NathanContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Barron, LairdContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Black, HollyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Brenchley, ChazContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bryant, EdwardForewordsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Canty, ThomasCover artistsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Chiang, TedContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Collins, BillyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
de Lint, CharlesForewordsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dowling, TerryContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ford, JeffreyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Fowler, Karen JoyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Frenkel, JamesForewordsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Griswold, ElizaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gunn, EileenContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hand, ElizabethContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Haringa, Jack M.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Johnson, KijContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kemnitzer, LucyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lee, TanithContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
MacBride, AlexanderContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Mattawa, KhaledContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
McMahon, GaryContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Mead, DonaldContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Nickels, TimContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Nix, GarthContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Oates, Joyce CarolContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Oliver, ReggieContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Park, PaulContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Rickert, M.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Russell, KarenContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Schanoes, VeronicaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Sherman, DeliaAuthorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Smith, MaggieContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Spencer, William BrowningContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Taaffe, SonyaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Tumasonis, DonContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Tuttle, LisaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Valente, Catherynne M.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
VanderMeer, JeffForewordsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Walther, PaulContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Williams, LizContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0312380488, Paperback)

As in every year since 1988, the editors tirelessly scoured story collections, magazines, and anthologies worldwide to compile a delightful, diverse feast of tales and poems.
On this anniversary, the editors have increased the size of  the collection to 300,000 words of fiction and poetry, including works by Billy Collins, Ted Chiang, Karen Joy Fowler, Elizabeth Hand, Glen Hirshberg, Joyce Carol Oates, and new World Fantasy Award winner M. Rickert. With impeccably researched summations of the field by the editors, Honorable Mentions, and articles by Edward Bryant, Charles de Lint and Jeff VanderMeer on media, music and graphic novels, this is a heady brew topped off by an unparalleled list of sources of fabulous works both light and dark.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:53 -0400)

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