I’m a little overdue in writing up this review as I got a copy of Best of British Fantasy (ed. Jared Shurin) a few days before and I wanted to have time to refresh my palette before diving into the Sci Fi compendium, Best of British Science Fiction 2019. As she has done for a number of years, Donna Scott has brought together an excellent collection of works, most of which clearly fit the genre although there are a few exotic tastes in here as well.
Indeed, the opener (The Anxiety Gene by Rhiannon Grist) is as much fantasy as anything. Without giving too much away, it draws on multiverse theories from the field of physics but that’s about as scientific as it gets. It is a taut thriller though and, if you can proceed on the assurance that spaceships and aliens lie ahead, not a bad place to start.
There is plenty of variety including one or two that seem fitting for this pandemic year. In particular, I think of Ab Initio by Susan Boulton, set in the aftermath of a much more devastating plague. Some of the stories are quite long but there are also some very brief ones. I think the briefest, also with very pointed contemporary connections is Ghosts by Emma Levin. Barely a couple of pages long (quite a meaningless measure unless your eReader has the same sized font and screen as mine!), it illustrates the potential dangers of an increasingly digitally orientated world.
Finally, one of my favourites which, I admit, has a strong whiff of ‘fairy tale’ about it: The Land of Grunts and Squeaks by Chris Beckett. If we ever do encounter truly alien aliens, communications are likely to be a significant issue – history shows that it has been hard enough even with other Homo sapiens. This one is an excellent brain twister, which you will either want to talk or think about.
It has been another good year for British Science Fiction: long may that continue.