Cover illustration by Tom Canty.
From the start of her career, Elizabeth Bear has been one of the most distinctive voices in modern speculative fiction. Her debut novel, Hammered, won the Locus Award for Best First Novel in 2005, the same year she received the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. In the years since, she has produced an impressive array of standalone novels (Undertow) and multi-volume series (The Eternal Sky Trilogy, The New Amsterdam Series), along with a steady stream of stories and novellas, the best of which are gathered in this generous, absolutely necessary volume.
The Best of Elizabeth Bear contains 27 stories and novellas, many never before collected, that encompass an astonishing range of themes, settings, ideas and emotions. The collection opens with “Covenant,” a tale of serial murder unlike any you have ever read, and closes with the extraordinary “Erase, Erase, Erase.” The latter is a surrealist tour de force in which the unnamed narrator, a former cult member, reflects on her life, her nebulous but guilty past, and her constantly diminishing sense of self. In between these bookends are more than two dozen carefully crafted tales that never fail to resonate beyond the final page.
“Tideline,” winner of both the Hugo and Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Awards, tells the surprisingly moving story of Chalcedony, a former “war machine” determined to preserve the memories of her dead human companions. “Shoggoths in Bloom,” another Hugo winner, offers a fresh take on H.P. Lovecraft’s Mythos, setting the action in a pre-WWII II world marked by racism and virulent anti-Semitism. “Faster Gun” is a tale of the Old West in which Doc Holliday and Johnny Ringo encounter an impossible alien artefact. The long novella “In the House of Aryaman, a Lonely Signal Burns” takes place in Bangalore, India fifty years from now and tells the story of a murder in which the victim’s body is literally turned inside out. In the affecting “Sonny Liston Takes The Fall,” we are brought to an entirely new understanding of one of the iconic moments of boxing history.
These are just a few of the complex pleasures contained in this singular collection. Each of the remaining stories is a fully realized gem. Each one offers something new and unexpected. Whether you choose to read this book from end to end, or to parcel the stories out in a more leisurely way, The Best of Elizabeth Bear will provide you with endless hours of provocative, deeply intelligent entertainment. This is imaginative fiction in its purest, most highly developed form. It doesn’t get better than this.
From Publishers Weekly:
“Though many of these offer glimpses into vast, intricate worlds, all are grounded in deep human feeling and small, interpersonal dramas… Bear’s protagonists range from machines (the living spaceships of ‘Boojum’) to the human (the tired homicide cop in ‘Dolly’) to the monstrous (the discontented vampire of ‘Needles’), but she crafts them all with huge helpings of empathy and heart.”
“The collection begins with the fascinating and haunting tale of a serial killer in ‘Covenant’ and ends with the recent ‘Erase, Erase, Erase,’ a haunting look at responsibility, identity, and memory. Notable in between are a tale of a literal rock god (‘Hobnoblin Blues’), a visit with Doc Holliday (‘Faster Gun’), even a murder mystery with unexpected and far-reaching consequences (‘Dolly’).”
“From the award-winning author of The Red-Stained Wings (2019, etc.), a collection of 27 tales published between 2005 and 2019, spanning most of Bear's career. Readers familiar with Bear's novels soon learn to expect the unexpected, with characters, worlds, and ideas eyed from drastically skewed perspectives.”
“[The Best of Elizabeth Bear is] a collection with 27 excellent stories showcasing the talent of one of the genre’s most versatile writers… ‘In the House of Aryaman, a Lonely Signal Burns’ reads like a police procedural locked-room murder mystery in which the victim’s corpse appears to have been turned inside out. But other components in the story elevate it above standard fare, such as the investigator’s tense relationship with her VR-addicted mother, an engineered cat who might be a witness to the crime, a company developing fourth-dimension technology, and the strange behavior of a star in the Andromeda system.”
Table of Contents:
- Introduction by C. L. Polk
- Covenant (previously uncollected)
- She Still Loves the Dragon (previously uncollected)
- The Leavings of the Wolf
- Okay, Glory (previously uncollected)
- Needles (previously uncollected)
- This Chance Planet (previously uncollected)
- The Body of the Nation
- Boojum (previously uncollected)
- The Bone War (previously uncollected)
- In the House of Aryaman, a Lonely Signal Burns
- Shoggoths in Bloom
- Skin in the Game (previously uncollected)
- Hobnoblin Blues
- Form and Void (previously uncollected)
- Your Collar (previously uncollected)
- Terroir (previously uncollected)
- Love Among the Talus
- The Deeps of the Sky (previously uncollected)
- Two Dreams on Trains
- Faster Gun (previously uncollected)
- The Heart’s Filthy Lesson (previously uncollected)
- Perfect Gun (previously uncollected)
- Sonny Liston Takes The Fall
- Orm the Beautiful
- Erase, Erase, Erase (previously uncollected)
- Tom Canty
- Elizabeth Bear
- eBook Edition