(2016) Mercedes Lackey (ed.), Pyr, £12.99 / Can$19 / US$18, pbk, 412pp, ISBN 978-1-633-88138-9
A collection of the best science-fiction of 2014 that was nominated for the Nebula Awards in 2015, this showcase collection is another opportunity for readers who might not be as aware of the new work coming out from contemporary writers as they would want to be.
The lists of winners from the awards inception in 1965 is also a nice inclusion that gives new readers a sense of the prestige of the Nebulas.
This particular collection is quite eclectic. However, many names who have gone on to greater things in the last two years are featured and is interesting to see their work in this collection compared to their more recent publications. Writers such as Ken Liu, Aliette de Bodard, Jeff VanderMeer and Ursula Vernon are becoming more and more well known for their work. A book like this draws in readers who may know one or two of those writers and helps them discover others, whilst also reinforcing the prestige of the award with a publication.
The showcase includes the nominees and the winners in the categories of short story, novelette, an extract from the nominated and winning novellas and the winning novel. In a way, this encourages you to judge for yourself and see if your preferences match those of the panels. It also allows you to preview a selection of longer work which you may elect to purchase separately. This is a nice way to get a feel for what’s going on in the genre.
There does appear to be a loose theme to the selections, giving an aspiring writer a clear indication of what the great and the good of the Nebulas might be looking for. Many of the short stories have a telling or tale quality to them. The wide draw of influences and inspirations are certainly a strength. The short story winner, 'Jackalope Wives' by Ursula Vernon has a mythical aspect to it. 'The Husband Stitch' from Carmen Maria Machado would be my preference amidst the novelettes. It is hard to look past the winners in the novella category – 'Yesterday’s Kin' by Nancy Kress, although discovering anything written by Ken Liu (an extract from The Regular is included) that you may not have found before is an absolute treat. The rest of the story is in his anthology, The Paper Menagerie.
Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer (which SF² Concatenation cited as one of the best SF novels of 2014) is the winning novel and a sixteen page extract is included. The trilogy of Southern Reach novels (its sequels were Authority and Acceptance) were all published that year and this is an excellent introduction to VanderMeer’s mesmerising Area X, gradually being discovered and analysed by the scientists of the expedition. There is a familiarity to the detail of this, particularly in the flora and fauna, which bends into the strange and unpredictable. The close first person narration preserves the exploratory quality of the story and intrigues the reader into accepting the Nebula’s recommendation to purchase the full novel.
Award associated anthologies are an excellent opportunity to sample the best writing of the genre and the Nebula Awards Showcase 2016 is a great example of the best of these.
See also Peter Tyers take on Nebula Awards Showcase 2016.
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