cover image The Best Science Fiction of the Year, Vol. 4

The Best Science Fiction of the Year, Vol. 4

Neil Clarke. Night Shade, $19.99 trade paper (624p) ISBN 978-1-59780-988-7

The 29 stories in Clarke’s excellent annual span the SF spectrum, and though they vary significantly in their approaches and tones, many are built around the idea of humankind’s often uneasy relationship with advanced technologies. Elizabeth Bear includes both humor and grimness in “Okay, Glory,” an account of a smart house that becomes a prison when extortionists hack its AI to blackmail the owner. Alyssa Wong’s elegiac “All the Time We’ve Left to Spend” concerns a fan who spends her life in the company of simulations of dead members of a band she obsessively follows. Both Simone Heller’s “When We Were Starless” and Sofia Samatar’s “Hard Mary” are set in provincial human enclaves to whom high tech is a near-mystical revelation. Clarke has also selected distinguished stories by Ken Liu, Ian McDonald, Linda Nagata, and other well-known talents whose topics include rogue robots, first contact, and human consciousness downloads. The care with which he has drawn from both print and online sources makes this a year’s-best that truly lives up to its title. (July)