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.