Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Iron Tactician, by Alastair Reynolds

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(Military SF) Merlin's starship is one of the best, but it needs repairs, and a derelict starship may have what he needs. Or he can try a binary system where an interplanetary war has raged for centuries. (29,063 words; Time: 1h:36m)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ Average
Recommended By: GDozois:5 RHorton:5 NClarke JStrahan

The Briar and the Rose, by Marjorie M. Liu

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(High Fantasy) The Duelist serves the cold, beautiful Carmela but loves Rose. Separating Rose from Caramela is going to be the challenge of her life. (9,439 words; Time: 31m)

Rating: ★★★★☆ Rich, Complex, and Rewarding

The Super Ultra Duchess of Fedora Forest, by Charlie Jane Anders

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(Fairy Tale) A mouse, a bird, and a sausage live together happily, but a tyranny arising in the world threatens to disturb their idyll. (3,986 words; Time: 13m)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ Average

In the Desert Like a Bone, by Seanan McGuire

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(Historical Fantasy) Coyote and the red fox girl ride across the western desert looking for a man and a score to settle. (5,045 words; Time: 16m)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ Average

Reflected, by Kat Howard

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(Science Fantasy) As a physics grad student, Sophie researches mirrors as potential gateways to alternate realities. She shares her unexpected results. (4,839 words; Time: 16m)

Rating: ★★★★☆ Effective Fantasy in a Scientific Setting

The Starlit Wood: New Fairy Tales, edited by Dominik Parisien and Navah Wolfe

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(Fairy Tales) A collection of traditional fairytales recast to different times, places, and genres. (109,956 words; Time: 6h:06m)

Rating: ★★★★☆ Excellent Concept, Beautifully Executed

We reviewed Seasons of Glass and Iron, by Amal El-Mohtar when it was reprinted in Uncanny.

Spinning Silver, by Naomi Novik

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(Fairy Tale) Young Miryem supports her family lending money at interest, but things get difficult when someone from Faerie makes her an offer she can’t refuse. (11,747 words; Time: 39m)

Rating: ★★★★★ Beautiful Writing, Clever Plot, Plenty of Tension
Recommended By: RHorton:4 JStrahan

The Tale of Mahliya and Mauhub and the White-Footed Gazelle, by Sofia Samatar

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(Meta Fiction) Mahliya will be down in a bit to tell you the story, but we'll begin by telling you a love story. (3,449 words; Time: 11m)

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ Not Recommended

When I Lay Frozen, by Margo Lanagan

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(Fairy Tale) Tommelise really doesn’t want to marry Mr. Muldvarp, the mole, but she feels beholden to Mrs. Markmusen, the mousewife who has cared for her all winter and who insists it’s a good match. (5,427 words; Time: 18m)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ Average

The Other Thea, by Theodora Goss

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(Modern Fantasy) Thea graduated from witches school six months ago and should be at Harvard now, but the lack of her shadow, which she lost as a child, is depressing her, and if she can’t find it soon, she’ll fade away entirely. (11,021 words; Time: 36m)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ Average

Giants in the Sky, by Max Gladstone

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(Transhuman) One of the ascended humans wants to help the ones who stayed behind on now-primitive Earth, but bureaucracy appears to have survived ascension. (3,645 words; Time: 12m)

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ Not Recommended

The Thousand Eyes, by Jeffrey Ford

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(Horror) When old Merle was young, he wanted to paint all the bars in South Jersey. He did The Thousand Eyes last. A hard place to find. A place where The Voice of Death performs on Wednesdays. (4,482 words; Time: 14m)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ Average
Recommended By: SFEP

Some Wait, by Stephen Graham Jones

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(Horror) When one child disappears, it’s a tragedy, but a series of disappearances is another matter. Especially when they're disappearing from their own bedrooms--and appear to be going willingly. (5,846 words; Time: 19m)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ Average

Penny For a Match, Mister?, by Garth Nix

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(Historical Fantasy) In the Old West, a murder under a full moon brings a thing across “The Line.” A thing seeking vengeance, and with a broad idea of responsibility. (5,662 words; Time: 18m)

Rating: ★★★★☆ Fascinating, Mysterious, and Uplifting

Badgirl, the Deadman, and the Wheel of Fortune, by Catherynne M. Valente

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(Horror) Badgirl worries about Deadman who brings her daddy "sugar," so she hides when he visits. But he wants something from her when her daddy can't pay. (5,854 words; Time: 19m)

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ Not Recommended

Familiaris, by Genevieve Valentine

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(Meta Fiction) A man wants a child, but his wife does not. A princess had seven sons in seven days, sent them away, and was swallowed by them eighteen years later. And there are wolves. (4,847 words; Time: 16m)

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ Not Recommended

Underground, by Karin Tidbeck

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(Slipstream) Hedvig’s father accidentally trades her to a cursed prince—which doesn’t happen every day in modern America—and then things get strange. (4,475 words; Time: 14m)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ Average

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Thing About Growing up in Jokertown, by Carrie Vaughn

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(Superhero SF; Wild Cards) In New York City, ugly mutants stay in Jokertown, but teenage Rikki and her friends want to do some exploring. It’s not exactly illegal, but it’s not exactly safe either. (8,446 words; Time: 28m)

Rating: ★★★★☆ Exciting and Topical with Great Characters

Although this story is set in the Wild Cards universe, it’s enjoyable entirely on its own. See related articles on Tor.com.

The Three Nights of the Half-Gent, by Mário de Seabra Coelho

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(Horror) In life, he loved her from a distance, and in death he still hesitates to look right at her, even though she can’t leave the theatre. Is a half-man’s love stronger than death? (2,490 words; Time: 08m)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ Average

Throw Me a Bone, by Stanley Schmidt

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(Paleontology SF) The Titanosaur bone destroyed Bill’s career because its isolation smacked of fraud. But there had to be another explanation. (1,126 words; Time: 03m)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ Average

Split Signal, by Joel Richards

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(Mind Uploading) Is an uploaded personality a legal person? Is it kidnapping to make a copy? Is it murder if the original hires a hit man to target the copier? (6,953 words; Time: 23m)

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ Not Recommended

Briz, by Jay Werkheiser

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(Alien SF) When the alien starship has an accident, they have to skip their original target star and find a new one. That turns out to be a hard decision to make. (3,672 words; Time: 12m)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ Average

Paradise Regained, by Edward M. Lerner

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(Colony-Planet SF) An ignorant young man and a stranded space ship race against time to find a way to fix the problems that make the human colony unsuccessful. (5,556 words; Time: 18m)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ Average

Necessary Illusions, by Tom Greene

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(Colony-Planet SF) When Iolus refuses demands that it become part of the empire, the imperial agents are much too smart to destroy the planet, but they’re definitely up to something. (6,705 words; Time: 22m)

Rating: ★★★★☆ Strong Characters and a Strong Plot
Recommended By: RHorton:5

The Last Mayan Aristocrat, by Guy Stewart

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(Historical SF) In the last days of the last Mayan city, a dying god comes to the last Mayan ruler and makes her an unexpected offer. (6,912 words; Time: 23m)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ Average

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Dall's Last Message, by Antha Ann Adkins

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(SF) Dal approaches the end of it's life and wishes to leave a worthy message to posterity--if the waterwraiths will leave it alone long enough. (2,104 words; Time: 07m)

Rating: ★★★★☆ Captivating, Moving, and yet Completely Alien

Drifting Like Leaves, Falling Like Acorns, by Marissa Lingen

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(Military SF) Bismuth is getting tired of the war--from the modified humans who glide like flying squirrels to the modified frogs whose secretions calm solders down. (3,102 words; Time: 10m)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ Average

2016 Best SF/F Anthologies

Update 3/6/17: Added Nebula & Readers (magazine polls) recommendations, which are +2 to a story's score.
Update 3/2/17: Added 4 story links for Asimov's Readers' Awards Finalists.
Update 2/15/17: Added Rich Larson's Innumerable Glimmering Lights and updated charts.
Update 2/2/17: Added RHorton recommendations from 2/1/17 Locus Magazine.
Update 1/10/17: Added recommendations from Neil Clarke's "year's best" SF/F TOC.
Update 1/1/17: Added GDozois & RHorton recommendations from 1/1/17 Locus Magazine.

Here are 96 stories from the "year's best" SF/F anthologies for 2016, scored by reviewer recommendations, and sorted by highest to lowest score. (Note this is a subset of RSR's YTD By Score page, which also contains stories not included in the "year's best" SF/F anthologies, starting with score 5 and below.)

The "year's best" SF/F anthologies include the following:

The score for each story is calculated as follows:
The table will be updated in Jan and Feb 2017 as Dozois and Horton list their recommendations from stories published in fall 2016, when Clarke releases the table of contents for his anthology, and as Rocket Stack Rank reads some stories it hasn’t reviewed. Updates will be posted on Facebook and tweeted on Twitter.


Monday, December 26, 2016

Catching Zeus, by Tom Jolly

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(Hard SF) Red and Churro look for naturally-occuring superconducters in the cold Canadian winter, but the competition is really murder. (5,061 words; Time: 16m)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ Average

Long Haul, by Marie DesJardin

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(SF) Her departure from Portran delayed by a few days, Jubrin explores the marketplace and acquires an alien pet. (4,438 words; Time: 14m)

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ Not Recommended

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Orbit of Fire, Orbit of Ice, by Andrew Barton

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(Hard SF) Chizuru and Layan need to deorbit an old space station before it collides with something. Getting out is harder than getting in, though. (5,745 words; Time: 19m)

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆ Needs Improvement

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Whending My Way Back Home, by Bill Johnson

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(Time Travel) Trapped in the past, Martin tries to engineer a change in reality that will let him go home. (12,854 words; Time: 42m)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ Average

This continues the story that began with Paris, 1835, but it stands alone just fine.

After the Harvest, Before the Fall, by Scott Edelman

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(SF) Daniel greets new children and prepares his flock for harvest, but his successor is proving a problem. (11,360 words; Time: 37m)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ Average

Monday, December 19, 2016

The Shallowest Waves, by Thoraiya Dyer and Alvaro Zinos-Amaro

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(Hard SF) Charlotte dreams of seeding Europa with life, if only she can find someone to fund it. (7,412 words; Time: 24m)

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆ Needs Improvement

Twilight’s Captives, by Christopher L. Bennett

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(Hard SF) When humanity joined the Nocturne League, we never dreamed they might punish a treaty violation by confiscating a colony's children. (10,079 words; Time: 33m)

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆ Needs Improvement

Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Proving Ground, by Alec Nevala-Lee

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(Hard SF) Haley hopes the "colony" on Bikini island will let her people survive sea-level rise, but a problem with local birds presents an unexpected threat. (17,370 words; Time: 57m)

Rating: ★★★★☆ Exciting Hard-Science Adventure
Recommended By: RHorton:5

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

December 2016 Ratings

5 & 4 Stories: 18;  Estimated Time: 7h:12m (130K words)
Recommended By Stories: 30;  Estimated Time: 11h:24m (205K words)
Total Stories: 64;  Estimated Time: 21h:55m (395K words)
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The Autobiography of a Traitor and a Half-Savage, by Alix E. Harrow

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(Alternate History Fantasy) Oona works for The Company making the land across the Mississippi stand still so they can survey and tame it. (8,772 words; Time: 29m)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ Average

The True and Otherworldly Origins of the Name ‘Calamity Jane’, by Jordan Kurella

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(Old-West Fantasy) Hunting for her old partner and some missing townspeople, Calamity confronts a pair of fairies. (3,583 words; Time: 11m)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ Average

Where She Went, by Linden A. Lewis

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(SF) When his granddaughter doesn't come home one night, Rhee looks for her at the witch's lair--even though it's forbidden to approach it. (5,499 words; Time: 18m)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ Average

Red Dirt Witch, by N.K. Jemisin

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(Black Historical Fantasy) In the closing years of segregation, Emmaline uses her magic to help neighbors and protect her children, for trouble is coming. (7,448 words; Time: 24m)

Rating: ★★★★☆ Moving Story with Rich, Authentic Characters
Recommended By: JStrahan

This story is not available free online; you have to purchase the issue.

The Things My Mother Left Me, by P. Djèlí Clark

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(African Fantasy) After her father's death, Tausi needs someone to take her from Epoulu before her aunts marry her off. (7,472 words; Time: 24m)

Rating: ★★★★★ Fun tale with a clever heroine

The Rock in the Water, by Thoraiya Dyer

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(Modern Fantasy) A Hatian girl and a Syrian girl flee their countries but with very different results. (5,451 words; Time: 18m)

Rating: ★★★★★ Topical, Complex, and Stirring

This story is not available free online; you have to purchase the issue.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Black, Their Regalia, by Darcie Little Badger

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(Fantasy) Three college kids infected with the plage head off to quarantine, still believing their music can make a difference. (4,123 words; Time: 13m)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ Average

Monday, December 12, 2016

Das Steingeschöpf, by G.V. Anderson

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(Historical Fantasy) On the even of the Nazi takeover, a young German man's first assignment fixing a living statue becomes more complicated than he expected. (6,388 words; Time: 21m)

Rating: ★★★★★ Moving story with strong characters
Recommended By: Readers

Crises and Conflicts, edited by Ian Whates

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(Military SF) A companion to the anthology "Now We Are Ten," this volume is dedicated to military SF and space opera. (71,114 words; Time: 3h:57m)

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ Not Recommended

The Beauty of Our Weapons, by Gavin Smith

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(Military SF) Across millennia, Cain serves in army after army, cursed to kill and kill again. (10,524 words; Time: 35m)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ Average