cover image The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2020

The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2020

Edited by Diana Gabaldon. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $16.99 trade paper (432p) ISBN 978-1-328-61310-3

Gabaldon (the Outlander series) brings together 20 stories that memorably and creatively explore genre themes. “Up From Slavery” by Victor LaValle pulls off the impressive feat of weaving Lovecraftian elements into the story of a copy editor working on a new edition of Booker T. Washington’s memoir of the same name. Charlie Jane Anders’s masterful, dystopian “The Bookstore at the End of America” looks at the U.S. political divide through the prism of a bookstore located on the border between blue and red America. The standout is Deji Bryce Olukotun’s “Between the Dark and the Dark,” a sci-fi story in which crystalline blooms appear on Earth’s mountains, triggering disastrous seismic events and forcing a desperate effort to find a new home for humanity. That venture is threatened when the crew of one vessel is discovered to have engaged in cannibalism, leading to calls for the ship’s destruction. And, though Matthew Baker’s “Life Sentence” remains vague about the details of its science-fictional conceit, it still maintains emotional engagement in its suspenseful account of a man whose memory was wiped after he committed a serious crime. The variety of styles and themes on offer here demonstrate the sustained vitality of genre fiction. (Nov.)