Fiction Reviews

The Best of World SF - Volume 2

(2022) edited by Lavie Tidhar, Head of Zeus, £25.00, hrdbk, 649pp, ISBN 978-1-803-28031-8


Way back in 2021, Lavie Tidhar’s The Best of World SF came out, and here we are two years later, reviewing volume two which came out last year. Mr. Tidhar has been busy, busy, busy, although in a way this collection of stories is different from other “Best of’s” where the editor might invite writers to submit a story that has been published in the last year, and then has to plough through a pile of submissions to come to their final selection. Tidhar’s approach is slightly different in that no-one who appeared in volume one, appears here. Also of the twenty nine stories that are included, 8 are originals with 21 appearing previously elsewhere, and not even in the last year as some of these stories date back to 2010. Tidhar wants to showcase emerging writers from all over the world, and bring the reader’s attention to stories that didn’t appear in English-speaking markets, and while some were published in English, others have been translated, sometimes by the writers themselves or with the aid of translators. As the title suggests, the writers themselves come from all over the world, including such as India, Bangladesh, Japan, China, Jamaica, Ukraine, Iraq, Manila, Bolivia, Uganda, Mexico, Italy, and South Korea. Tidhar also gives a nod to some of the translators after the contributor’s biographies.

The page count indicates that this is a meaty tome, the stories gathered together under the banner of being science fiction, which as everyone knows is a broad church, although Tidhar groups some stories together where they share a common theme, or subject, therefore, we get stories set off-world, or are fairytales, or are about robots, or dystopian societies and some which blur the boundaries between realities and a few which could be classified as being old-fashioned horror.

Given that we are presented with twenty nine stories, you can’t please all of the readers all of the time, but it is always a good idea to start and end an anthology with two strong stories, something Tidhar does with the opening story “The Bahrain Underground Bazaar” by Nadia Afifi, about an old woman who is dying of cancer who visits a black market in the Underground Bazaar where she can experience recordings of other people’s deaths, except she can’t get one recording out of her head, and as she investigates the circumstances around it she starts on a journey of self-discovery…

From that strong opening, we go all the way through another twenty-seven stories to reach the end point in “The Farctory”, a long short story by Ukranian writer, K. A. Teryna, where we are in the weirder end of the science fiction spectrum about a man escaping his own decaying reality by entering The Farctory to find answers and a way back to his family.

In between those two book-ends we are treated to stories about cooking food in partnership with a supernatural entity; the perils of making robots sentient, dystopian worlds divided up by such things as virtual access, or slave labour, or merely being super-rich and super-poor; future warfare, AIs; music from a campaigning calypso band that are trying to stir up the masses; fake food; a monster apocalypse; old-style zombies; scrapped gods; murder in outer space; an alternative reality steampunk tale; first-contact, transferred consciousness, androids on the run; donating your life to those who are dying; trees that grant wishes; twenty very short stories about robots; derelict spaceships; colonised planets, and that old staple, the end of humanity.

Whether or not Tidhar’s efforts live up to the quote from Adam Roberts on the cover that this is “The most important anthology of SF since Dangerous Visions” is up to you, the reader, to decide, but I certainly welcomed a different take on familiar science fiction tropes shaped by the life, circumstances and experiences of the contributors.  Recommended.

Ian Hunter


[Up: Fiction Reviews Index | SF Author: Website Links | Home Page: Concatenation]

[One Page Futures Short Stories | Recent Site Additions | Most Recent Seasonal Science Fiction News]

[Updated: 23.9.15 | Contact | Copyright | Privacy]