Book Review

The Mammoth Book of Futuristic Romance:  A Guest Review by CarrieS

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Title: The Mammoth Book of Futuristic Romance
Author: Trisha Telep, Editor
Publication Info: Running Press Book Publishers 2013
ISBN: 978-0-7624-4601-8
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy

The Mammoth Book of Futuristic Romance where, judging by the cover, the future means strapless prom dresses and a LOT of frost on people. In futuristic fiction, it's often a challenge to create a believable situation.  The most unbelievable thing about The Mammoth Book of Futuristic Romance is that someone had the nerve to charge $13.95 for this lackluster short story collection.

The Mammoth Book of Futuristic Romance is a collection of nineteen short stories about romance set in the future or involving futuristic elements.  Probably the most famous author to contribute is Linnea Sinclair.  All the other authors were new to me.

Many of the stories in this collection are simply dreadful.  Even the strongest writers struggle with the format of the short story, leaving their work rushed and incomplete.  I've said it before and I'll probably have to say it again:  a short story is not a prelude to, or an excerpt from, or the first chapter of, a novel.  It must function as a complete, satisfying unit, and none of these stories really pull that off although a few come close. 

The most jarring thing about the collection was how many of them involve women being treated like pets (and liking it) and acting like idiots.  Apparently in the future you can't be a hero without calling the woman you've just met “Sweetheart”.   If you are a woman, you must become helpless at the scent of the man you are attracted to: “He smelled like hard work and man… How in the hell was she going to concentrate on this mission if she couldn't think when he was close to her?” (from “Star Crossed”).

I didn't think any of these stories rose above a “B” grade, but the standouts included the two stories by Linnea Sinclair, the ghost story “Memories of Gravity”, by Patrice Sarath, “Fade Away and Radiate”, by Michele Lang, and “In The Interest of Security” by Regan Black.  I also found that “Red Dawn”, by Delilah Devlin, sort of stuck in my head.  It ends abruptly but I liked the characters and they stayed with me long after I read the story. 

Extra credit goes to the mom protagonist in “In the Interest of Security”, who works hard, is levelheaded, and wears flats unless she's on a date, when she wears heels with a weapon hidden in the heels of the shoes.  And the hero doesn't talk to her as though she is his new pet poodle, so points all around!

I feel I should warn readers that “Song of Saire”, opens with a graphic depiction of first graders being shot at their school (it's a school for psychics).  In light of the events at Sandy Hook Elementary I found the story to be unreadable but that's a comment on its unfortunate timing, not its writing quality which I can't evaluate fairly.

The remaining stories range from sort of OK to truly terrible.  If this book were $8.99, I'd that say if you are a totally die hard sci-fi romance fan, you might consider it but I wouldn't recommend it.  If it were $.99, I'd say go for it on the basis of the few decent stories.  But $13.99 for this?  If you want to spend that kind of money, get Captain Vorpatril's Romance by Lois McMaster Bujold, or Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson, or Dodger by Terry Pratchett. These are all marvellous books with strong romantic elements that are only available in hardback and as eBooks so far.  For God's sake don't waste your money on this collection, which can most charitably be described as uneven.  And if a guy you've never met before starts calling you “Sweetheart”, deck him.


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  1. 1
    Angstriddengoddess says:

    Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, not Romance.

    Thanks for the heads-up about this collection. I agree that a short story (or novella) should be complete in itself rather than an excerpt or teaser. But I would extend this to novels. I have lost count of books that I read to the end only to discover that the book ends on, basically, a To Be Continued. I’m very hesitant to even start a book now if it’s part of a series

  2. 2
    Marina says:

    Is a collection of 19 stories allowed to call itself “the mammoth book of…”? 10 years ago I went through a phase of reading several books titled that way; they were all of them collections of about 50 stories each, numbering at least 1000 pages.

  3. 3
    LG says:

    I have “The Mammoth Book of Paranormal Romance” in my TBR pile, but I keep putting it off because I just know most of the stories will probably underwhelm me, or worse. I think romance in general is hard to write in the short form. Add on the world building often required for decent sci-fi/fantasy/paranormal aspects, and you end up with very few authors who can really do it well.

  4. 4
    Mbg_bookworm says:

    Although I haven’t read this title, my experience with Mammoth collections has been below mediocre.  Even the paper quality and print is unpleasant.  They are like rummage sales where you have to dig through a ton of junk to find something worth keeping.  It is really not worth it to me.  And no way would it be worth $13.99.

  5. 5

    Very resourceful of Telep to use the same cover as her anthology that was cancelled due to all the authors dropping out over the homophobia.

    http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1…

  6. 6
    CarrieS says:

    @Kayleigh Anne – thank you SO MUCH for bringing up Telep’s controversial past.  Several authors pulled out of her fantasy short story collection after she tried to get one of the authors to change a gay couple into a straight couple.  I recall the controversy but had completely forgotten who it involved.  As regards the book of Futuristic romance, This “Mammoth” collection is hardly representative of the diversity that exists in science fiction.  Although there are many inter-species romances, all of them are at least superficially heterosexual.  I also don’t recall any couples of color although I write and submit these reviews far enough in advance that by now I may have forgotten some of the details of the stories.

  7. 7
    CarrieS says:

    Just to clarify, Neither Captain Vorpatril, Alif, nor Dodger are what I would call purely romance novels.  As I describe them in the review, they contain “strong romantic elements”, and I think would be more deeply satisfying to a romance reader than most of the stories in the Mammoth collection.  They leapt to mind because they are in roughly the same price range (and because I read all three of them fairly recently and have been dying to recommend them!)

  8. 8
    O_Waite says:

    I’d forgotten that was her as well—sad that I bought this book before either reading your review or recalling Telep’s questionable actions of editorship.

    And thank you, THANK YOU for calling out the “sweetheart” story. That had me breathing fire for days.

  9. 9
    Ashlea says:

    I checked out the Mammoth Book of Steampunk (or Steampunk Romance or similar) as a library e-book.  I was underwhelmed by the writing, editing, and world-building, but I thought there was a lot of unique, creative ideas.  Made me sad that they were developed so poorly.

    If I’d paid $13.99 for it, I would have skipped sad and went straight to annoyed. 

  10. 10

    You just won my heart by recommending Terry Pratchett.  I’d also like to add that “Going Postal” has a wonderful, if extremely unconventional, love story subplot. ;)

  11. 11
    Liz H says:

    I bought one of the Massive Book of… anthologies several years ago and was so frustrated by the poor writing and editing that I brought it back and returned it. Although I’ve still been curious about individual stories by authors I follow, I’ve never found a new-to-me author I enjoy in these anthologies.
    In addition, after Telep’s anti-gay editing decisions, I can’t say I look too fondly on ANY author that chooses to associate with her.
    It’s a bit anal of me, but I’ve started keeping a list. I’ve got a set book budget, and there are so so many authors out there. Why spend it on people who do things like this, or who pull any of the other crazyness we’ve seen over the last few years?

  12. 12
    Patricesarath says:

    Hi CarrieS,
    The characters in Memories of Gravity are persons of color.

    Patrice Sarath

  13. 13
    CarrieS says:

    @Patricesarath – awesome, thank you!

  14. 14
    ridiculousspider says:

    I would spend all my time punching old men in this area if I decked every male stranger who called me sweetheart.  It doesn’t bother me, though.  It is common for people here to call complete strangers honey, sweetie, sweetheart, boo, etc.  I would only take offense if it came across as condescending or patronizing.  In my experience, men can be both of those without ever calling me by any cute nickname/pet name. 

  15. 15
    ridiculousspider says:

    And now I must read “Dodger” by Pratchett.  I love his books so hard. 

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