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By J. Stephen Bolhafner
Published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Sunday, August 31, 1997 Page 5C

Fourteenth Annual Collection
Edited by Gardner Dozois
594 pages, St. Martin's Press, $29.95 ($17.95 paper

EVERY YEAR, Gardner Dozois puts together an overview of the past year in science fiction that is required reading for anyone who wants to keep up with the field.

One might complain that his selection draws heavily from the magazine he edits, Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, but a look at the Nebula and Hugo award nominations for the last few years will show a similar skewing, which is one reason why Dozois wins the Hugo for Best Editor year after year.

Several of the stories continue a recent trend of setting science fiction stories in the past. Often, these stories take place in imagined alternate universes in which certain twists of history speeded up technology.

But at least one does not depend on technology being more advanced than history shows, just on people thinking about things in a certain way. The story is called "The Weighing of Ayre" by Gregory Feeley, and I don't want to give any more of it away, but it is one of the most haunting stories in the collection.

In addition to nearly 600 pages of wonderful stories, Dozois presents, as always, a detailed "Summation," recounting everything from the financial status of various magazines to the blockbuster summer movies, his take on a smattering of the hundreds of novels published, a listing of winners of all the major awards, and a recounting of those who passed away the previous year.

Dozois claims the field is broad enough and deep enough that five collections like his could be done each year with little overlap, all filled with wonderful stories differing by the tastes of the editors. Maybe. But if such books were done, his might still be the best.

There is no one source that will give you as good a feel for the possibilities of the science fiction genre, and how those possibilities were fulfilled last year, than this annual collection.

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