(ibooks, $7.99, 358 pages, mass-market paperback; published in May 2003.)
Last year, Robert Silverberg and KarenHaber entered the "year's best" anthology arena by launching two new series, one dedicated to science fiction and the other to fantasy. Their science-fiction volume was excessively redolent of misplaced nostalgia, but Fantasy: The Best of 2001 presented an interesting and entertaining mix of imaginative fiction. They return this year with a new volume in each series.
Again, Science Fiction: The Best of 2002 fails to capture the excitement of the genre, but Fantasy: The Best of 2002 is a diverse and thrilling read that spans the broad range of fantasy fiction's subgenres.
The fantasy book's biggest lacuna -- especially compared to the rival anthology series edited by David Hartwell and by the duo of Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling -- is that Silverberg and Haber limit their choices to selections from a handful of the most easily available genre magazines and anthologies. The one exception to this rule is Brian Stableford's "The Face of an Angel", taken from the small-press anthology Leviathan 3, and it's the most daring and captivating story in Fantasy: The Best of 2002.
It tells of a vain plastic surgeon who meets a man claiming to know the secret to recreating the face of Adam. The tale shimmers with inventive wonders, deftly juggling history, mythology, and literary allusions.
In the introduction, the editors argue that they consider science fiction a branch of fantasy. So, despite their other anthology dedicated to that genre, they include a few science-fiction stories here, of which Robert Reed's "The Majesty of Angels", describing a cataclysm of cosmic proportions from a grippingly intimate point of view, is the most impressive.
Other gems include David Prill's gruesomely bizarre romance "Dating Secrets of the Dead" and John Langan's peculiar modern gothic, "Mr. Gaunt."
Claude Lalumière's Fantastic Fiction
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© Claude Lalumière 28 June 2003, 26 August 2003