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The Mammoth Book Of Science Fiction

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An anthology of science-fiction stories since 1950 by such masters of the genre as: Stephen Baxter; Brian W. Aldiss; Michael Swanwick; Philip K. Dick; and Peter Hamilton. The collection includes tales of travel through space and time, aliens coming to Earth and the pull of black holes.


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An anthology of science-fiction stories since 1950 by such masters of the genre as: Stephen Baxter; Brian W. Aldiss; Michael Swanwick; Philip K. Dick; and Peter Hamilton. The collection includes tales of travel through space and time, aliens coming to Earth and the pull of black holes.

30 review for The Mammoth Book Of Science Fiction

  1. 5 out of 5

    Werner

    Note, July 14, 2021: I've just edited the review below to delete some extraneous material. Carroll and Graf's Mammoth series offers anthologies of stories drawn from practically any genre or theme that can be suggested; so it was inevitable that science fiction would eventually be represented as well. Editor Ashley, as stated in his introduction, aimed for the best of both old and new stories. Of the 22 selections, the first and last were new stories written especially for this collection. The tw Note, July 14, 2021: I've just edited the review below to delete some extraneous material. Carroll and Graf's Mammoth series offers anthologies of stories drawn from practically any genre or theme that can be suggested; so it was inevitable that science fiction would eventually be represented as well. Editor Ashley, as stated in his introduction, aimed for the best of both old and new stories. Of the 22 selections, the first and last were new stories written especially for this collection. The two in the exact middle date from the early 1900s, and are contrasting apocalyptic visions. Ashley drew the remaining 18 about equally from the 1950s and 1990s, "with a smattering in between." Several big names in the genre are represented (as the reader can see in the Goodreads entry for the book, which lists every contributor), but most of the stories are ones that have not been frequently anthologized; there were only two I'd read before, giving this collection at least the advantage of freshness. Like all editors, he defined the "best" in terms of his own tastes and assumptions; and, of course, everybody's are individual and different. For instance, his taste runs somewhat more strongly to the darker side of the genre than mine does; and he's much more open to the strand of modern "hard" SF that draws on the "cutting-edge" theories of quantum physics to justify incoherent plotting and narrative --coherence, in this view, is an illusion and the structure of time and space is a confused jumble, so the writers are trying to reflect this "realistically." Though I'm admittedly not a scientist, I don't personally buy into the extreme aspects of quantum physics; I find them counterintuitive and the "evidence" that I've read unconvincing. More to the point, I don't find this kind of narrative (or "meta-narrative") pleasurable or satisfying to read; it doesn't provide anything that I'm seeking in fiction. Two stories here, Greg Egan's "The Infinite Assassin" and Geoffrey A. Landis' "Approaching Perimelasma," are drawn from this tradition. The Egan story had enough narrative coherence (even though the protagonist was constantly moving through an infinity of worlds, and was one among an infinity of alter egos) that I could read it, even though I didn't enjoy it. But (full disclosure :-)) even though I honestly tried hard, I could NOT read through the Landis story (which is essentially a fictionalized lecture on the quantum theory's postulates about black holes); prose of the "All of me are we are you" sort proved too much for me, and I finally decided that there are some exercises in time wasting and suffering that I don't need to put myself through. (Bludgeoning myself in the head with a hammer and finishing that story would both qualify. :-)) The other story I couldn't finish was Brian Aldiss' "Shards." That one has nothing to do with quantum theory; but it offers page after page of what might as well be gibberish, because it's written from a totally alien and incomprehensible perspective, with an vocabulary that's impossible to understand in key places, and a POV character who doesn't know what or where he/she/it is (and neither does the reader). This is all explained at the end (to which I skipped), and some critics and readers will think it brilliant; for me, it was another exercise with a bludgeoning hammer. :-) As my star rating for the book suggests, however, there is a lot here that I related to more positively. (The uneven quality of the stories did make it hard to come up with an overall rating; individual ratings could run the gamut between five stars and one --or none, if that was possible. But in the main, I felt that the ratchet was toward the high end of the scale.) My favorite stories here were Connie Willis' "Firewatch," involving a time-traveling Oxford Univ. history student from the far future (as in her award-winning novel Doomsday Book, but a different student) in World War II London during the Blitz; one of the new stories, Eric Brown's brilliant homage to H. G. Wells' War of the Worlds, "Ulla, Ulla;" and Clifford D. Simak's "A Death in the House," which illustrates the best features of the best strand, IMO, of his work. Another story that actually could go in that group is Dick's "The Exit Door Leads In," one of the two I'd read previously. That one is included in the Dick collection I Hope I Shall Arrive Soon, which I've read but never reviewed yet; I'd rather save a more detailed treatment of it for that review, to consider it in the context of the rest of his work. Suffice it to say that this story has a really good point --despite being one of the stories here that have, in places, the most objectionable language. (It can be noted that several, though not all, of the newer stories here have some gratuitous profanity and sometimes even obscenity, which mar the works without adding to them. This never, in these stories, becomes so off-putting as to in itself totally negate the literary value they may possess, though.) The other stories with the worst language problems are Keith Robert's "High Eight," which is nevertheless a very effective cautionary tale with the message that high technology is not necessarily a benevolent thing, and Michael Swanwick's "The Very Pulse of the Machine." There, you get the feeling that anger and frustration fuels a lot of the space-explorer protagonist's bad language --understandable emotions, since the tale opens with her trudging across the frigid, unforgiving surface of the Jovian moon Io on foot, dragging an improvised sledge bearing the body of her colleague (killed in the accident that wrecked their vehicle), with limited oxygen, keeping herself going on methamphetamines in the hope of reaching their spacecraft. But Swanwick's premise here is a genuinely original one; his character is on the cusp of a really major discovery --and of an enormous choice with profound spiritual and moral implications, the kind of choice that serious literature deals with. Both of the early 1900s yarns are tied together by the theme of the extinction of life on earth, contrasting eschatological visions (fire or ice, to put it in terms of the Frost poem :-)) that are informed by the fears of atheism adrift in a hostile and doomed universe (rather than by New Testament eschatology). If they're approached with that understanding, though, and taken simply as fiction with no attempt to suspend disbelief (and indeed, suspension of disbelief in "Finis" would be difficult, since its astrophysical "science" is drastically off-beam even by 1906 standards!) they're actually affecting stories, "Finis" particularly so. The restrained way that Pollock handles the actions of his two characters here --a man and woman who know, not only that they're doomed to die within a few hours, but that their whole world is dead or similarly doomed as well-- is a model of the "less is more" principle. (This was the other story I'd read before.) All of the remaining stories are well-written, readable and entertaining to one degree or another (or in one way or another) --even though they may or may not have very plausible premises, or ideas I personally agree with. Peter Hamilton's "Deathday" and Mark Clifton's "What Have I Done?" are the darkest-toned of the bunch. Robert Sheckley is perhaps best known for "The Tenth Victim," a tale with the message that human nature isn't consistent with Utopia. Unlike that one, the Sheckley story here, "A Ticket to Tranai," is cynically humorous in tone; but the message is the same. In "Vinland the Dream," Kim Stanley Robinson's premise is that an archaeological dig at L'Anse aux Meadows discovers that the original evidence for a Viking settlement on the site was actually a faked hoax. (In real life, it wasn't; but Robinson writes so realistically that some readers might think it was!) This is used a springboard for the postmodernist message that what really happened in the past doesn't matter --all that really matters is how stories about the past affect us individually. (I beg to differ! :-)) Other stories worth noting include Eric Frank Russell's "Into Your Tent I'll Creep" (which gives the reader a much different view of "man's best friend" than, say, a typical Lassie episode :-)) and John Morressy's "Except my Life3."

  2. 4 out of 5

    Neyly

    I find The Mammoth Book of Science Fiction a hard book to rate: I actively dislike some of the stories while thinking others really good. At one point, my rating would have been one star but I persevered. My final rating falls somewhere between "It is okay" and "I like it." I'm going with two stars rather than three (which I considered because I like a goodly number of the short stories) in part because the book needed a better editor: no excuse for misspelled words. I find The Mammoth Book of Science Fiction a hard book to rate: I actively dislike some of the stories while thinking others really good. At one point, my rating would have been one star but I persevered. My final rating falls somewhere between "It is okay" and "I like it." I'm going with two stars rather than three (which I considered because I like a goodly number of the short stories) in part because the book needed a better editor: no excuse for misspelled words.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Michael Caveney

    Maybe I'm spoiled by compilations edited by the likes of the Vandermeers and Ellen Datlow, but this collection seemed mostly like leftovers, propped up by the occasional chestnut from an old reliable like Simak. I'd skip this one if I were you. Maybe I'm spoiled by compilations edited by the likes of the Vandermeers and Ellen Datlow, but this collection seemed mostly like leftovers, propped up by the occasional chestnut from an old reliable like Simak. I'd skip this one if I were you.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Ania

    If there would be a possibility to give 3,5 stars -this book would get it. And as those stories in Polish edition are split into two volumes (the same stories but "hey - let's make more money and split it into two books" - here is my opinion about both volumes) Volume I The Mammoth Book of Science Fiction has been edited by Mike Ashley (he is well known for creating a lot of “mammoth books” - extreme SF, comic fantasy, time travel SF and so on), published in 2002 so it is does not include the fres If there would be a possibility to give 3,5 stars -this book would get it. And as those stories in Polish edition are split into two volumes (the same stories but "hey - let's make more money and split it into two books" - here is my opinion about both volumes) Volume I The Mammoth Book of Science Fiction has been edited by Mike Ashley (he is well known for creating a lot of “mammoth books” - extreme SF, comic fantasy, time travel SF and so on), published in 2002 so it is does not include the freshest stories, but it’s not a minus. It’s actually more interesting because of that (keep in mind, that the book in Poland is split between two volumes and this is a review of the first one). Stories cover a variety of topics: from time travelling, exploring nearby planets, having an ultimate fight with a hostile alien, experiencing an apocalypse and searching for an utopia. This made reading the book more interesting – as each story is a surprise, preceed by a short bio of an author and an illustration to the story. I would also advise to look at one of the first pages with the details about the authors and dates, when the story has been originally published – some of them are quite old and date back to the beginnings of SF (for George C. Wallis’es 1901 “The Last Days on Earth” and “Finis” by Frank Lillie Pollock) some are from the last days of SF “golden era” (“What Have I Done? By Mark Cliffton, 1952) and some are written in 90’s and 2002 (“Ul-la, ul-la” Eric Brown, 2002). In total, there are 13 stories in the first volume. The main question is – do they live up to the expectations? Not all of them – what surprised me the most, is that the older ones tend to be more enjoyable and I found them much more enjoyable. The oldest stories provide an interesting look into early 1990sd view on apocalypse: both are quite simple, quick reads that give a glimpse to the beginnings of the SF and how last days on Earth were perceived. I’ve especially liked “Finis” by Pollock, as the vision of a big blast of light and thus heatwave that is simply not possible to avoid is quite scary and could easily be put into a catastrophic movie. Other stories that I really enjoyed are much more focused on society and humans, it’s only the setting that has a science fiction elements. First of them being Robert Sheckley “A Ticket to Tranai” which is both cynically humorous in tone but also quite serious in terms of describing the search (and then living) in a utopian planet called Tranai. Nothing is what it seems and I’ve absolutely loved it and would definitely read more stories set in this world. The second story is “What have I done?” written by Mark Clifton – about aliens that want to be better in camouflaging themselves on Earth and asking main hero for help. It’s a short and funny story, with not so optimistic ending. Other story worth mentioning is Eric Brown’s “Ul-la, ul-la”, but before reading it – at least read a summary of SF classic “War of the Worlds”. Does it mean that all stories are so good? No, they don’t. There were some stories that I really had to push myself to finish reading, like “Paradox” by Damon Knight or Greg Egan “The Infinite Assassin”. Finally – I feel that there weren’t enough of stories written by female authors and it’s really a shame, as the book itself gives a nice overview of a lot of authors and history of SF. Volume II Neither better nor worse than the first volume. Less “SF” filled stories – some of them I would rather classify as just a little bit weird fantasy. This isn’t a drawback, it’s just not what the book title promises. One particular story caught me off-guard and I loved it from the first page – John Morressy’s “Except My Life3”. It’s a crime story, set in a world where human clones are just a normal thing – and the title itself indicates, that the story will be focusing on clone number 3. And there are four clones of the same person working together in a detective agency. Their task in the story: to secure the premiere of a theater play. It’s a nice mix of crime/noir and SF and Morressy’s nails the narration and style, using superscripts to indicate which clone does what (sometimes there are sentences indicating, that two clones are doing the same things at the same time, so the sentence would be “I’ve stood up(1,4) and walked(1,4) outside”). I would love to read more stories set up in this world. One of the stories, that quite surprised me for more than one reason is Keith Roberts’s “High Eight” -written in 1965, it's so harsh in criticizing and also antagonizing new technologies (in the story: electricity) so much, that I’ve felt this story too unbelievable and instead of science: I would say it’s more of a fantasy & horror mix. Not bad, but not fully executing a great idea for a story. And this "not bad, not great either" summarizes the book perfectly. It’s a fine collection of stories, but it’s just not an equally good collection of SF stories. It also lacks any logic in terms of which stories have been picked and they are randomly set in this specific order. Still – if you have this book already or like some of the authors – reading it won't be a waste of time.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Colin

    An interesting mix of old and newer short stories. The usual mix in a sci-fi anthology

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jien

    A few of the stories were not as good, but most of them were great enough to earn this anthology a five star rating.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    This was quite mammoth, it's taken me ages! There was a good variety of stories, I am sure more women writers could have been included though. This was quite mammoth, it's taken me ages! There was a good variety of stories, I am sure more women writers could have been included though.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Saul Escalona

    4/10 stories are very good 5 star rating

  9. 5 out of 5

    Alejandro Teruel

    A nice anthology of SF stories which lie somewhere between a three and a four star rating. Many of the authors are well known figures in the genre although I don't remember having come across any of the stories before -this may say more about the long period during which I practically stopped reading science fiction. It seems to me that more space is devoted to "hard" science fiction and time travel and very little space to SF as an excuse for social criticism, but what little there is is satire A nice anthology of SF stories which lie somewhere between a three and a four star rating. Many of the authors are well known figures in the genre although I don't remember having come across any of the stories before -this may say more about the long period during which I practically stopped reading science fiction. It seems to me that more space is devoted to "hard" science fiction and time travel and very little space to SF as an excuse for social criticism, but what little there is is satire of the highest quality. Thankfully there is very little apocalyptic SF -as you may guess from this comment, this is not a subgenre I enjoy. The stories I most enjoyed and which I would mark with five stars are Robert Scheckley's A Ticket to Tranai, a brilliant and extremely funny satire how awry a 1950's dream utopia can be, Mark Clifton's sardonic What have I done? about an alien invasion destroyed by being trained to assume humanity's loftier aspirations, Connie Willis Firewatch, a wonderful story about a student historian's "field trip" time travel back to the blitz over London, Robert Reed's poignant At the "Me" Shop and Clifford Slimak's wry, folksy and touching A Death in the House. Scientific or technological ingenuity is the hallmark for Greg Egan's The Infinite Assasin -even though it is a bit heavy handed on the math of infinite parallel worlds-, Geoffrey Landis Approaching Permimelasma which attempts to portray both the physics of falling into a black hole and the partial duplication/recreation of a human's consciousness and memory, Colin Kapp's The Pen and the Dark which explores the rather fanciful notion of anti-energy (for a standard physics reply to this see, for example Brent Nelson on PhysLink), and Michael Swanwick's The Very Pulse of the Machine. These stories tend to thinly wrap a scientific theory or (remote) possibility into a narrative excuse. In some stories the twist is literary rather than scientific. Such is the case in Eric Brown's Ulla, Ulla -a homage to H.G. Well's War of the Worlds, Kim Stanley Robinson's postmodernism imbued Vinland the Dream which adds to that famous dictum about "History is written by the victors" commonly misattributed to Winston Churchill, the addendum "...and successful forgers" a very postmodernist and annoying twist, John Morressy's Except my Life(3) which uses an ingenious device, the use of superindexes on "I", "my" and "mine" to denote which of several clones is speaking. Some of the stories are rather thin -in my opinion,Frank Lillie Pollock's apocalyptic Finis and Damon Knight's Anachron certainly fall into this category- but the only story I disliked was Brian Aldiss' Shards, a very unsatisfying and pretentious excursus into Joycean linguistics. I would not buy this collection (thus the three stars) and it is probably not a good or representative collection of Science Fiction for readers new to the genre, but if you enjoy some Science Fiction it is a nice enough anthology to dip into.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Rory Martin Christian

    A nice diversion with a few gems I gravitate towards compendiums like this because of the variety. Different writing styles, themes, and narratives make such books the equivalent of a box of chocolates. There are a few gems like “Ulla, Ulla”, which puts a twist of the Wells classic “War of the Worlds”. “Infinite Assassin” was a great read with twists and turns that ended unexpectedly, and “Into your tent I’ll creep” would have made an excellent episode of the twilight zone. This is a solid collec A nice diversion with a few gems I gravitate towards compendiums like this because of the variety. Different writing styles, themes, and narratives make such books the equivalent of a box of chocolates. There are a few gems like “Ulla, Ulla”, which puts a twist of the Wells classic “War of the Worlds”. “Infinite Assassin” was a great read with twists and turns that ended unexpectedly, and “Into your tent I’ll creep” would have made an excellent episode of the twilight zone. This is a solid collection likely to appeal to most science fiction fans.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Cyrix Instead

    somewhat variable collection. Stand out stories for me were, Ulla,Ulla Eric Brown, The very pulse of the machine Michael Swanwick, High Eight Keith Roberts and a death in the house Clifford Simak.

  12. 5 out of 5

    S.S.

    This was a good selection of short stories, and like most anthologies, some stories were better than others (although I couldn't say that any of them were particularly horrible.) I preferred the 'serious' sci-fi stories to the more comedy/parody ones, however. My favourite tale was the first one, Ulla Ulla, as one of my favourite books is actually 'The War of the Worlds.' I thought that Ulla Ulla tied in quite cleverly with the original novel. This was a good selection of short stories, and like most anthologies, some stories were better than others (although I couldn't say that any of them were particularly horrible.) I preferred the 'serious' sci-fi stories to the more comedy/parody ones, however. My favourite tale was the first one, Ulla Ulla, as one of my favourite books is actually 'The War of the Worlds.' I thought that Ulla Ulla tied in quite cleverly with the original novel.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Richard Anderson

    Some good stuff here.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Vincent

  15. 5 out of 5

    Kurt

  16. 5 out of 5

    Mary-Ann Thomson

  17. 5 out of 5

    Michael J Nixon

  18. 4 out of 5

    Chas

  19. 4 out of 5

    James

  20. 4 out of 5

    Brian

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

  22. 5 out of 5

    Abe

  23. 4 out of 5

    Gabriela

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sandi (Zorena)

  25. 5 out of 5

    Zdeňka

  26. 5 out of 5

    BRIAN CARPENTER

  27. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

  28. 4 out of 5

    Adam

  29. 5 out of 5

    Robert

  30. 5 out of 5

    Fernando Santos

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