This collection of Nebula-winning short stories and excerpts excels at showing the breadth of modern science fiction. Editor Greg Bear, himself a former Nebula winner, takes the reader not only through the current winners, but he also includes a discussion of what the Nebula awards are, how they are awarded, and the background and criteria for some of the special awards given at the ceremony. This volume differs slightly from other “anthology of the year” type volumes not only in the transparent discussion of criteria, but also in the inclusion of the excerpts from longer works. Although this type of anthology is a tradition in genre fiction, usually they only include short stories or possibly a single novella. The range of types of work in this particular anthology helps give an idea of the whole of science fiction being written today.
As for the fiction itself, it is, of course, wonderful. These are writers at the top of their genre, and even though we have all occasionally griped at a selection committee, the Nebula awards do seem largely committed to promoting a variety of writers and viewpoints (and after all, isn’t that what anthologies are for?). Readers who are only interested in male points of view, or who are looking for science fiction in the most traditional sense of “men in space, encountering little green men,” may be disappointed with this volume, but other readers will find the broad variety of viewpoints interesting and exciting. That being said, this is a volume that is geared towards sci-fi lovers, and those who are already familiar with the standards of the genre. This is likely not a good choice to introduce someone to science fiction. There are also points of view in this text that are challenging. Alternative viewpoints, and alternative sexualities abound. This would likely be an appropriate book for an older teen reader, but adults might want to give the book a quick once-over before their children get their hands on it.
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