If the stories included in the 21st annual Year's Best Science Fiction -- selected by editor extraordinaire Gardner Dozois -- are any indication, the genre of science fiction is still alive and kicking. With brilliant short works by John Varley, Vernor Vinge, Harry Turtledove, Charles Stross, Kage Baker, and Geoff Ryman, this annual anthology is -- once again -- required reading.
Noteworthy stories include William Barton's "Off on a Starship," which takes a nostalgic look at 20th-century science fiction through the eyes of a 16-year-old boy living in the 1960s who hitches a ride on an automated starship and meets an accommodating robot that (ahem!) enlightens him and alters the way he looks at himself -- and the multiverse; and "The Green Leopard Plague" by Walter Jon Williams, about a philosopher who, after much contemplation, irrevocably changes the world's economy by unleashing rogue biotech that ends starvation forever (by turning human skin green and giving those affected the ability to photosynthesize!). "The Ice" by Stephen Popkes chronicles the legal and psychological implications of a clone of hockey legend Gordie Howe, and Terry Bisson's provocative "Dear Abbey" follows a duo of radical environmentalist time travelers as they try to save humankind from itself!
Aside from the 29 outstanding stories included, this shelf-bending collection also features a comprehensive summation of the state of science fiction in the year 2003 (28 pages long!) by Dozois that is on its own worth the price of the book. Paul Goat Allen