cover image The Year’s Best Military and Adventure SF, Vol. 5

The Year’s Best Military and Adventure SF, Vol. 5

Edited by David Afsharirad. Baen, $16 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-1-4814-8406-0

This disappointing anthology of military and adventure SF stories showcases a variety of works but never creates a cohesive experience. Each story promises tension in the unpredictability of the future, only to become formulaic as a result of recurring deus ex machina plot twists. Suzanne Palmer’s “Thirty-Three Percent Joe,” written from the point of view of cybernetic parts trying to keep a soldier alive, is clever and funny, but it sticks out among dour stories such as James Beamon’s “A Song of Home, the Organ Grinds” (a coming-of-age tale in which 14-year-old Ozan is recruited to join the crew of a Turkish airship on which brainwashed monkeys are used as weapons) and Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s “Once on the Blue Moon” (in which an 11-year-old hacks a computer system to save her family aboard a spacecraft). Though the stories are unrelated, each displays a similar lack of originality and fails to elevate military SF beyond its niche appeal. If this anthology truly contains the best short stories of 2018, it doesn’t say much about the state of the subgenre. (June)