I'm loving this anthology so far (which is what I expected, given that I find Jonathan Strahan's taste similar to my own). The first few stories exhibit the kind of variety and quality that one ought to expect from a Year's Best anthology. Here's what I think of these individual pieces:
The Future Is Blue, by Catherynne M. Valente -- 3 stars (out of 5). Well, this one I did not like as much. That's a surprise, because I have never encountered a CMV story I didn't like. This wasn't bad, it was just kind of a chore to finish. The ending packs quite a punch, no less strong than the usual from this wonderful author. If anything, the water-world bizarreness of life in this thoroughly imagined story makes you realize that, even if climate change doesn't completely drown the Earth, life may well become a challenge to recognize.
Mika Model, by Paolo Bacigalupi -- 5 stars! A police detective finds himself in a situation where he must find a defense lawyer for a sexbot... but what legal rights does a sexbot have? Is the sexbot truly sentient? To what degree? Tough questions with no good answers in the near future. This one is fascinating, not just for the moral questions, but also for its ingenious structure and its finely tuned writing. The really neat thing about this story is that all these Big Questions are wrapped up in a fiction-package made poignant by the author's mastery of perspective. That kind of combination makes you think more deeply.
Spinning Silver, by Naomi Novik -- 5 stars again! This compelling tale is a riff on Rumpelstiltskin. The daughter of a failed moneylender (failed because he is too kind), who is himself the son of a successful moneylender, makes herself into an even more successful moneylender. But such success comes with a price...
Two's Company, by Joe Abercrombie -- 4 stars. I think this one is set in the "Blade Itself" universe (though I haven't read anything from that milieu...). It's a clever tale pitting two boastful warriors against each other in comic fashion, complete with witty repartee and amusing reversals. It didn't come across as half so witty as the author thought it might (or so it seems to me), but it's still pretty amusing, and the writing is impressively smooth, with something approaching the perfect economy of description.
You Make Pattaya, by Rich Larson. 5 stars! There's really nothing revelatory about this sexy con caper, but it's constructed so perfectly that it was a pure joy to read. Taken together with "Mika Model" (and even "Two's Company", to a small extent), it's a refreshing challenge to the status quo of sexual mores as well as a reminder that such mores are ever in flux.