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About the book:

Gardner Dozois, editor of Asimov's and the annual anthology series, The Year's Best Science Fiction, has assembled 23 stories by some of the best-known names in SF, past and present. The stories, which "explore the farthest reaches of the universe," were written between 1951 and 1998 and are presented in chronological order. As the stories progress, so does the terrain being explored.

"The Sentinel," a classic Arthur C. Clarke tale of a man discovering an alien artifact on the moon (the inspiration for 2001: A Space Odyssey), shows the quintessential explorer of the time: alone, in charge of his environment, and happy that way. "Grandpa," by James H. Schmitz, concerns the indomitable spirit of Man, or at least Boy, and his natural lordship over all things alien. In Niven's "Becalmed in Hell," we meet a cyborg, and Zelazny introduces us to a population genetically engineered to the edge of humanity in "The Keys to December." Le Guin's story, "Vaster Than Empires and More Slow," suggests that in order to explore alien territory, you must be insane. Tiptree's piece, "The Man Who Walked Home," is a brilliant portrayal of the tension between the need to explore the unknown, and the human cost of that need. Stories by Varley and Swanwick, Baxter and Egan, show humans from an alien perspective: we are no longer the sum and center of the universe, merely a part.

While it is possible to read this book as nothing more than a collection of adventure stories leavened with a pinch of a sense of wonder, a deeper reading reveals how the genre's gaze has turned from an examination of what lies Out There, the unknown place and the alien being, to a more inward contemplation: the question of what it is to be human. --Luc Duplessis.

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