Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Year’s Best Science Fiction: “An Ocean is a Snowflake, Four Billion Miles Away,” a Novelette by John Barnes

Apparently, we’re among the last to learn that
An Ocean is a Snowflake, Four Billion Miles Away” (2007), a recent novelette by John Barnes set on a terraformed Mars, appears in The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Fifth Annual Collection (2008), a new anthology edited by Gardner Dozois.

Here’s how Dozois describes Barnes’ plot: “A future Mars in the process of being terraformed, where a personal, professional, and philosophical rivalry may turn out to have deadly consequences.”

SF Signal noted that “the first half of this story was dreadfully slow” and gave it a rating of two stars out of five. Tangent: Short Fiction Review “found the story made for dry reading.” Not Free SF Reader called it an “Energetic documentary avalanche accident” and gave it a rating of three out of five. Nevertheless, Barnes’ novelette has been recommended for a Nebula Award.

The first half of “An Ocean is a Snowflake, Four Billion Miles Away” is posted on Jim Baen’s Universe website, although we were able to read the entire novelette through's Online Reader. We agree with the other reviewers that Barnes' work is less than stellar.

John Barnes is also the author of two novels set on the Red Planet, The Sky So Big and Black (2002) and In the Hall of the Martian King (2003). He maintains a blog at

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