The Short: “The Year’s Top Tales of Space and Time 2“, Allan Kaster editor, 2022 Infinivox, is a very good anthology. My average story rating is 3.74/5, or “Very good”. There are several stories included here that especially drive my recommendation for it.
The Full Story: My short SFF reading group on Facebook (Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Short Fiction, always open to new members) voted to read Allan Kaster’s 2022 anthology on Infinivox, “The Year’s Top Tales of Space and Time 2”. I was excited about this due to the inclusion of several 2021 stories that I was very interested in, including Greg Egan’s novella “Sleep and the Soul” and John Kessel’s novella “The Dark Ride”.
I suspect this is the first of Alan’s anthologies I have read, although I have been aware of him and his anthologies for a while.
10 stories are included from 2021, from short story to novella. I believe the title accurately describes the stories included; I think they all concerned time and space in some way.
There are several stories here that I had not read elsewhere, which was one of the reasons that I was excited about reading the anthology. I had not previously read:
- “Dream Atlas”, a short story by Michael Swanwick.
- “Antonia and the Stranger Who Came to Rancho Los Feliz”, short fiction by Lisa Morton.
- “The Dark Ride”, a novella by John Kessel.
There were also a number of stories that I enjoyed rereading, including:
- “The Station of the Twelvth”, a short story by Chaz Brenchley.
- “The Burning Girl” by Carrie Vaughn.
- “Sleep and the Soul”, a novella by Greg Egan.
- “A Pall of Moondust”, a short story by Nick Wood.
- Re: Bubble 476″, a short story by A. T. Greenblatt.
My favorites included:
- “The Dark Ride” by John Kessel.
- “A Rocket for Dimitrios”, a novella by Ray Nayler.
- “Sleep and the Soul” by Greg Egan.
- “The Burning Girl” by Carrie Vaughn.
My only quibble is the lack of any introduction, story introductions or author bio information. This did not ruin my enjoyment of the stories.
Allan did tell me and I confirmed that there are what I would describe as very brief (one sentence each) high-level story summaries for the stories included at both the Amazon and Barnes & Noble online sites for the book. I would not read them myself, as there is spoiler information there.
My average rating for the anthology stories was 3.74/5, or “Very good”. I’m glad I read it, and I recommend it. I’ll read more of Allan Kaster’s anthologies.
Detailed Comments/Reviews: Spoilers all Over the Place.
“A Rocket for Dimitrios”, a novella by Ray Nayler, Asimov’s Jan/Feb 2021. A great alternate history story of an alien saucer found in the US in 1938, and a very different WW2. Sylvia is a veteran, and a psychology student (all but PhD). She is the only survivor of alien tech that can help read the memories of recently deaf people. Sylvia is an OSS contractor, and is brought in to read the memories of a man who may know the location of a second saucer. Eleanor Roosevelt and General Hedy Lamarr are both on the run from the OSS, and recruit Sylvia to ensure the US does not get the second saucer and tip into authoritarianism. Rated 3.9/5, or “Great”.
“Dream Atlas”, a short story by Michael Swanwick, Asimov’s Mar/April 2021. A lucid dream researcher finds out she will learn how to use the dream continuum to learn past and future knowledge. However, far future entities convince her to stay quiet for the good of the human race. Rated 3.6/5, or “Very good”.
“Mulberry and Owl”, a novelette by Aliette de Bodard, Uncanny Sept/Oct 2021. A tale of rebels against the Empress, and a desire to clear an oath-sister’s name, and a ship that loves to torture and kill. Rated 3.5/5, or “Good”.
“Antonia and the Stranger Who Came to Rancho Los Feliz”, short fiction by Lisa Morton, from “Speculative Los Angeles“, Denise Hamilton editor, 2021 Akashic Books. A very good tale of Alta California and a visitor from an alternate, dystopian timeline. He turns out to be a scout for an invasion from his wrecked world. Rated 3.7/5, or “Very good”.
“The Station of the Twelfth”, a short story by Chaz Brenchley, 2021 Tor.com. A very good story of a monorail station on Mars, that honors the sacrifice of a local regiment on Deimos. On re-read, outstanding tale of an alternate universe where Martians are part of the Empire, and Station 12 the monument to a brave and lost battalion on a Martian Moon. Rated 3.7/5, or “Very good”.
“The Burning Girl”, a novelette by Carrie Vaughn, Beneath Ceaseless Skies #340, As Carrie Vaughn says, “the Norman conquest with superheroes”. The lead character is Joan, who is friends with fire. Jealous, fearful Normans, supposed allies, attack them after they break the walls of rebellious York. A good story on reread. 3.8
“Sleep and the Soul”, a novella by Greg Egan, Asimov’s Sept/Oct 2021. For me, this is a very different story by Greg Egan, and one I loved. A great alternate history of a railroad construction worker who wakes up in a grave after a blasting accident renders him unconscious. In America at this era (perhaps early electric light), losing consciousness is equated with dying, and any coming back are considered demon possessed with no “soul” remaining. He has a lot of interesting adventures as he tries to survive, live with his to be wife, and convince others and America that this kind of unconsciousness does not require demon possession afterwards. Just as great on reread. Rated 3.9/5, or “Great”.
“A Pall of Moondust”, a short story by Nick Wood, Omenana, April 2021. A good story of a young woman fairly new to the Moon, who suffers the trauma of two coworkers dying of explosive decompression. Therapy follows, complicated by the death of a loved grandfather as a teen. Just as good on reread. Rated 3.6/5, or “Very good”.
“Re: Bubble 476” by A. T. Greenblatt, Asimov’s Mar/April 2021. A good story of unstable bubble universes, a “Long Recession” which makes it very, very hard to get jobs and makes people way less picky, and hope via email. Traditional epistolary per emails back and forth. Good on reread. Rated 3.7/5, or “Very good”.
“The Dark Ride”, a novella by John Kessel, F&SF Jan-Feb 2021. A great story of a young, rather isolated anarchist who kills President McKinley, partly in opposition to the elites and industrialists and businessmen he believes McKinley supports and partly out of hope of impressing Emma Goldman. A separate plot thread is intertwined with a story of how his “dark Ride” at the Buffalo Exposition to the moon has real experiences, perhaps. Very well done! Rated 4/5, or “Great”.
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