Friday, July 23, 2010

Wall Street Journal reviews "It Takes Two"

Well, okay, they (in the form of Martin Morse Wooster) actually review Dozois' Year's Best SF, but they talk about me:

Most science-fiction fans give up on the effort to keep pace and turn to anthologies instead. Gardner Dozois's long-running "best of" series is rightly a favorite. This year's version includes more than 300,000 words and draws from a variety of sources, including a recent collection of stories that rework H.P. Lovecraft's masterly tropes and themes. But "The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Seventh Annual Collection," for all its bulk, is charmingly eclectic more than portentously comprehensive. Consider two stories that Mr. Dozois has placed next to each other in his anthology: "Paradiso Lost" by Albert E. Cowdrey and "It Takes Two" by Nicola Griffith.

Mr. Cowdrey's novella is a traditional military science-fiction story: hard men on rough planets. Ms. Griffith's novelette "It Takes Two" is, for its first half, the tale of a female vice president of a software company falling in love with a female lap dancer. Mr. Cowdrey's readers and Ms. Griffith's are probably two distinct groups, but the stories are more similar than one might expect.

Mr. Cowdrey delivers all the battle action one would want, but he is far more concerned with the struggle his hero faces when he receives orders from his superior officers that seem aimed at genocide. As for Ms. Griffith's storyline, it turns out that her heroine's erotic urge is not what it seems: She has been drugged and set up by her company's higher-ups, who engineer her affair as an illicit experiment. Both Mr. Cowdrey and Ms. Griffith ultimately ask the same question: How much control should our bosses have over us?

It helps that both stories are neatly constructed, intellectually challenging and smoothly written.


Only in an alternative reality would an anthology please every one of its readers, and surely "The Year's Best Science Fiction" will inspire disapproval as well as assent. But it is as good as the real world allows for now—a wide-ranging sampler for enthusiasts eager to catch up on their favorite genre and a good introduction for fiction lovers who are tired of reading precious short stories about paint drying in Connecticut.

So let's pause and say 'Yay!' for WSJ and Mr Wooster--with whom I agree wholeheartedly regarding precious stories about paint drying. (And let's say 'Yay!' for Gardner's Year's Best. And 'Yay!' to David Pringle for the heads-up.)

Makes a nice change from being called 'a kook' on their front page...

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