For a superb collection of science fiction and fantasy suitable especially, but by no means exclusively, for teens, you need look no further than this wonderful new anthology. The first in what I hope will be an annual series, the book was compiled by veteran anthologist Patrick Nielsen Hayden and noted children’s and fantasy author Jane Yolen. If it’s truly representative of the best current fiction in the category, then there’s a lot more good writing and storytelling being done in it than I—admittedly no longer a regular reader of these genres—ever would have supposed.
It’s hard to imagine any young reader who likes the Harry Potter books not taking to the stories in this collection. There’s not a dud in the lot. Stories like Kelly Link’s “The Faery Handbag” and Lynette Aspey’s “Sleeping Dragons” excel at smoothly mixing fantastic and legendary elements into the lives of recognizably modern kids. “CATNYP,” by Delia Sherman, and David Gerrold’s “Dancer in the Dark” are good parallel-world stories, the former light and humorous, the latter dark and perhaps a bit too obscure. Two miniatures—Garth Nix’s “Endings,” which takes a page (and literally not much more) from vampire lore and will entrance Buffy and Lestat fans, and “Displaced Persons,” Leah Bobet’s even shorter Wizard of Oz redaction—strike home powerfully in very different ways. The inclusion of Rudyard Kipling’s “They,” first published a century ago, may even point the Hogwarts Generation towards the great literature of the past, where it will discover the aesthetic joys and intellectual rewards of prose more flowery and elegant than even the most erudite contemporary writing.
Moving from times past to times to come, the anthologists save the best for last, presenting Bradley Denton’s longish story “Sergeant Chip.” This near-future tale of war and betrayal, narrated by a most unexpected type of soldier, works on many levels and should become a classic. It alone makes the anthology worth the (very reasonable) price.
The editors provide for each story a mini-introduction in which they point out its literary devices or traditions and recommend other books and authors to readers who may find they want more of the sort. The book may be aimed at younger readers, but adults too, if they have even a small capacity for wonder, will find in these stories a variety of compelling visions, much good writing, and very possibly something to love and remember.