The second edition to the Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy , edited by Karen Joy Fowler (Mariner), is just as strong as the first, if not stronger. The stories here are wistful and witty and leave behind the heavy-handed moralizing that often plagues the best science fiction plots. Ted Chiang’s “The Great Silence” looks at humanity’s fascination with the possibility of extraterrestrial life through the eyes of very intelligent parrots. Dexter Palmer’s “The Daydreamer by Proxy” explores a solution to long office workdays where the mind slips into unfocused thinking. In Charlie Jane Anders’s “Rat Catcher’s Yellows,” a woman gives her ailing wife The Divine Right of Cats, an augmented reality game that is supposed to help keep some level of higher thinking. With heavy-hitting authors such as Salman Rushdie, Anders and Sofia Samatar, this volume showcases the nuanced, playful, ever-expanding definitions of the genre and celebrates its current renaissance.
Lust, political intrigue and familial obligations drive Kai Ashante Wilson’s A Taste of Honey (Tor). Set in the same fantastical universe as Wilson’s Crawford Award-winning novella “The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps,” “Honey” tells a story that is as much about loss and memory as it is about the reclamation of one’s identity. Aqib, who can communicate with and tame any beast, is distantly related to the royal family, but because his father married below him, and his brother’s marriage didn’t quite raise the family’s social standing, it is up to Aqib to make a better match. That plan is threatened, however, when he falls for a visiting soldier. Told in alternating timelines — one plot follows Aqib’s romantic rendezvous with the soldier and the other Aqib’s subsequent marriage to a woman with extraordinary mathematical and psychic abilities — the novel is a beautiful look at love in its many forms.
An island full of dark secrets can hold the path to redemption or revenge in Emmi Itäranta’s evocative novel The Weaver (Harper Voyager). In this society, dreams manifest only as nightmares and disease, or so the council of elders says. Those who have been possessed by such a demon are sent to prison, where all Dreamers and the “tainted” are held. Eliana is a Weaver who doesn’t necessarily believe the council, and her life is thrown into disarray when a young woman with Eliana’s name tattooed on her hand suffers a traumatic attack. Could this girl be the key to the plague slowly taking over the island? Only by trying to protect the young woman does Eliana discover a terrible past, but is it too little, too late? Itäranta’s refined prose centers the story on the growing love between the two women while also touching on the unspoken, horrific violence against women and other oppressed groups.
Nancy Hightower is the author of “The Acolyte.”