Author: various, ed. by Gordon Van Gelder
Rating: 3 stars
I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
You’re probably tired of me giving story collections 3 stars. I know, I am to. But I’m hard pressed to find a better rating for a collection such as this. When there are many different authors, I have many different reactions to the stories, and some I will like a whole lot more than others. So, middle of the road. Three it is.
I picked up The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction Volume Two in part because I want to educate myself about the origins of the genre. I know early authors by reputation, but very seldom by actual representations of their work, and as usual I also feel really undereducated in the science fiction side of the genre. Fantasy & Science Fiction is one of those old bulwarks that it can be intimidating to approach; coming in, I was only familiar with one of these stories (the Liu). So I figured it was worth a try.
As with any compilation, best of or otherwise, the stories vary in quality and the way they appeal to me as a reader. There are 27 stories included here, and I’d say about 6 or 7 really rose above the rest for me. A couple I really, really disliked, and a couple just left me scratching my head. But the great thing is that they cover such a variety of subgenres that everyone will find something.
One thing that surprised me is that the older stories, dated references aside, often read like they could have been written yesterday. (I swear, you replace the “miniature television” of “The Prize of Peril” with a smartphone, and you’d have a scathing critique of modern reality tv). I liked them better than a lot of the later stories, too. The examples from the 80s and 90s covered a lot of cyberpunk and stuff that didn’t really appeal to me, and stories that were published 60 years ago felt fresher than stories published 20 years ago.
Women and authors of color are severely underrepresented. I understand that when going back to the 50s and 60s, ratios will be off, but I was still quite disappointed by it. But I was exposed to some new writers, and learned a little history of the genre, and for the most part I enjoyed the collection.