“Here we are, falling through shadows”, Jason Sanford Shadow-dwelling “rippers” have somehow come into our world from some other dimension or plane of reality, and firefighters like our hero are among the few who must still get their jobs done, even after dark. On top of a job that’s suddenly gone from frequently dangerous to regularly deadly, he must deal with a teen daughter who’s suicidally fascinated with the rippers. Like Sanford’s “Sublimation angels” in the previous IZ, this story steps just shy of the line of explaining what’s going on, and I think the technique is much more successful in this new story, possibly because the rippers themselves are fundamentally unexplainable. A fine read.
“By starlight”, Rebecca J. Payne Sailing through the sky, a couple of renegades from one of several clans who vie for mastery of the air must keep themselves safe from dangerous “Grounders”, duplicitous traders, and the families they’ve rejected. Does an excellent job of weaving together a fantastic setting, a fascinating social environment, and enough hazardous obstacles to make a plot.
“The killing streets”, Colin Harvey The economy’s continued into the dumper, and meanwhile a couple of nasty military technologies have gotten loose and are killing people on the streets. Thom is struggling with a marriage unbalanced by his being out of work while his wife keeps a secure government job. Quality writing and enjoyable, with a strong look at hard-to-face human feelings, but somehow I’m still not expecting it to be a story that sticks in the memory.
“Funny pages”, Lavie Tidhar A superheroes (and supervillains) as regular blokes story with a twist: these underpants-fetishists battle above and below the streets of Tel Aviv, and evil mastermind Doctor Meshugeh’s dastardly plan has repercussions for Middle East Peace. A fun story, with a few serious turns; possibly somewhat overburdened by its extensive cast of characters. Hopefully the disgruntled superhero trend won’t catch fire too strongly — I heard Saladin Ahmed read his “Doctor Diablo goes through the motions” (forthcoming from Strange Horizons) at WFC, and that was similarly enjoyable, but I’m afraid this isn’t a subgenre where I could read more than a couple of stories per year before they start to blend together.
“Bone Island”, Shannon Page and Jay Lake The narrator has an important role to play in the magical gongs-on of an ambiguously-situated but isolated island community. Frequent capsule summaries of the islanders’ habits: “Our folk were stubborn”, “We are a proud people”, “Here on Bone Island, all the real weirdos seem to be women”, and so on, which came along often enough to nag at me, but not enough to become a repetitive rhetorical device. Otherwise, the story is enjoyable and satisfying; fun to read.
The reviews I should try to keep my reviewing of the reviews to a minimum, but at least in the case of Maureen Kincaid Speller’s review of the latest Gardner Dozois Year’s Best I couldn’t follow the criticism. Mainly, she’s unimpressed with Dozois selections, saying “there are no bad stories here, but by the same token, there are few if any that actually excite me.” But when it comes to recommendations for stories that were missed out, the only suggestion seems to be to buy more from Nebula and Hugo-winning authors, which seems to me a bad way to choose exciting stories rather than simply exceptionally solid ones. The criticism that Nebula-winner Ted Chiang isn’t included in the collection is particularly nonsensical as Chiang is famously unprolific, and his Hugo-winning story, coming from a still-in-print original anthology, may not have even been available to Dozois. I haven’t read the collection, but I don’t have to to be able to say this review isn’t even self-consistent.