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The Mammoth Book of SF Stories by Women Paperback – December 2, 2014
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"Neverworld Wake" by Marisha Pessl
Read the absorbing new psychological suspense thriller from acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Marisha Pessl. Learn more
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And it's all of a very high quality, even the stories that I didn't care for. I appreciated that it included writers from a variety of cultures, too, most of whom wrote fascinating stories from a perspective wildly different from what one may casually expect from "SF". The authors ranged from fairly new through very well-known indeed, and almost all of the stories were new to me.
The styles ranged widely, too- everything from future speculation, through space opera, and into some very experimental and oblique writing. I must admit I am not a huge fan of the last, though I could see these were very well-done; they are just not to my taste (I prefer a strong narrative).
Two of the high points for me came close together: Le Guin's "Mountain Ways" (which I had read before), and the following "Tan-Tan and Dry Bone", an original story that reads like a classic folk tale, by Nalo Hopkinson. I also liked "A Short Encyclopedia of the Lunar Seas" by Ekaterina Sedia- it's not a narrative, but was so evocative!
While these are probably my top favorites, I started out liking almost all the stories, but some did seem to go on rather long for my taste, with little happening. Most, though, held up well.
This would be a wonderful book to bring along if you are traveling and need to choose only one!
My favorites, in order, are;
IMMERSION by Aliette De Bodard.
SPIDER THE ARTIST by Nnedi Okorafor.
DANCING IN THE SHADOW OF THE ONCE by Rochita Loenen-Ruiz.
These three were the only ones I was willing to rate as 5 stars. There are a few 4 star selections.
THE RADIANT CAR THY SPARROWS DREW by Catherynne M. Valente.
THE ELEVEN HOLY NUMBERS OF THE MECHANICAL SOUL by Natalia Theodoridou.
BOOJUM by Elizabeth Bear & Sarah Monette.
VALENTINES by Shira Lipkin.
EJ-ES by Nancy Kress.
So ends the good news.
Adding these five 4 star stories to the three 5 star stories only gives you a list of eight out of the thirty-three that fill this collection. That leaves you with twenty-five with a 3 star or lower rating, and far too many of those with only a 1 star rating. Using an average 2.57 I could rate this collection as high as 3 stars by rounding up, or play it safe by rating it 2 stars, but the fact there were so many disappointments a reader would have to suffer through to get to the gems forced my hand to give the disappointing rating of 1 star.
A number of issues upset me to the point of almost antagonizing me. There were way too many stories which should never have even been considered science fiction. They simply weren't. There were many where the only trace of science fiction dealt with unique (and often outrageous) matrimonial situations. In hindsight, I cannot understand how the editor, Alex Dally MacFarlane, came to the decision to include such irregulars in a volume dedicated to science fiction stories by women.
For an individual review and rating of each story in the order as they appear in the novel, here is the complete list.
GIRL HOURS by Sofia Samatar. One would think you would want to start a compilation with something good, not the mindless doodling of this first story. 1 star
EXCERPT FROM A LETTER BY A SOCIALIST-REALIST ASWANG by Kristin Mandigma. Oh my gosh, the second story is nothing more than a rant. 1 star
SOMADEVA: A SKY RIVER SUTRA by Vandana Singh. Alien looks for the meaning of life through the tales of other species. Someone should have told her the answer is 42. 2 stars
THE QUEEN OF EREWHON by Lucy Sussex. A tale of an illegal lesbian affair in a land ruled under a unique society based loosely on the structure in a bee hive. Too convoluted for easy reading. 3 stars
TOMORROW IS ST. VALENTINE'S DAY by Tori Truslow. A tale of mermaids told in a collection of scientific notes, memoirs, poems and references. The use of footnotes made reading this fluently impossible. 1 star
SPIDER THE ARTIST by Nnedi Okorafor. Finally! A story I enjoyed. Giant robotic AI spiders guard an oil pipeline in Africa. One falls in love with music and befriends the musician. 5 stars
THE SCIENCE OF HERSELF by Karen Joy Fowler. This is nothing more than an essay about Mary Anning, a noted paleontologist . How this classifies as science fiction is beyond me. 1 star
THE OTHER GRACES by Alice Sola Kim. A young Korean woman in America has a Gateway opened in her mind to others who are guiding her to success. Lacking details. 3 stars
BOOJUM by Elizabeth Bear & Sarah Monette. Living monstrous beings called Boojums are also spaceships people live in - a concept done before, but still rare enough to enjoy. Black Alice works in engineering on a Boojum pirate ship. The ship and her become friends. 4 stars
THE ELEVEN HOLY NUMBERS OF THE MECHANICAL SOUL by Natalia Theodoridou. Stuck on a dying alien world with only mechanical beasts for company, the sole survivor struggles to survive and whether to struggle on. 4 stars
MOUNTAIN WAYS by Ursula L LeGuin. Another boring foray into a unique marriage system requiring two men and two women when some want the system cheated. Outside of the weird marriage, where's the scifi? 1 star
TAN-TAN AND DRY BONE by Nalo Hopkinson. Written in some kind of African English the story is about a woman who is encumbered by a man who holds dark sway over her. Respectable, but is truly an occult story, not science fiction in any manner. It should never have been in this collection. 2 stars
THE FOUR GENERATIONS OF CHANG E by Zen Cho. A girl goes through numerous physical and mental changes to become a moon person. 2 stars
STAY THE FLIGHT by Elisabeth Vonarburg. An interesting premise of living statues, but the staccato style of the writing made reading somewhat difficult. 3 stars
ASTROPHILIA by Carrie Vaughn. A simplistic post-apocalyptic world returned to simple life where people weave wool by hand. One girl has an old telescope. Some same sex love. I've noticed a trend in this book where sexual relationships are outside the norm. Not much of a story. 3 stars
INVISIBLE PLANETS by Hao Jingfang. A collection of flash fiction bios of silly planets with even sillier people loosely tied together by an elder relating them to a child. 2 stars
ON THE LEITMOTIF OF THE TRICKSTER CONSTELLATION IN NORTHERN HEMISPHERE STAR CHARTS, POST-APOCALYPSE by Nicole Kronher-Stace. A story of an historian gathering details from ghosts loosely tied to the naming and history of constellations. 3 stars
VALENTINES by Shira Lipkin. A woman takes copious notes about everything and tracks her relationship with three different waiters named Valentine, Val and V. Is she crossing between worlds in the mutli-verse? 4 stars
DANCING IN THE SHADOW OF THE ONCE by Rochita Loenen-Ruiz. A woman from a conquered people has implants that allow her to be the Artifact of her people through live presentations. Showcase around the galaxy, she is a living history exposed to other races with misgivings. 5 stars
EJ-ES by Nancy Kress. Almost all people die in a distant colony on a far off planet from a special virus. Survivors suffer from dillusions. One woman sets out to fix things. Some good medical jargon in here. 4 stars
THE CARTOGRAPHER WASPS AND THE ANARCHIST BEES by E. Lily Yu. Literally, this is about a hive of wasps and a hive of bees living in a difficult arrangement side by side. 2 stars
THE DEATH OF SUGAR DADDY by Toyla Kristen Finley. I found the writing style, some type of inner city poor, interesting, but a story about inner city youths looking for a man known as Sugar Daddy while some people are suffering a weird rash is not science fiction, it is supernatural. 2 stars
ENYO-ENYO by Kameron Hurley. This mish-mash of a dark future for humanity is too convoluted to provide a credible story that can be followed by the average reader, By the end, I never really grasped what was being said. 2 stars
SEMIRAMIS by Genevieve Valentine. A post apocalyptic world being flooded by rising seas and a woman in charge of a seed collection and the illicit trade of seeds. 3 stars
IMMERSION by Aliette De Bodard. A superb story of people wearing a device called an immerser that changes your image and your way of thinking to emulate people known as Galactics. 5 stars
DOWN THE WALL by Greer Gilman. A montage of incomprehensible statements creating neither a story or message. 1 star
SING by Karin Tidbeck. The base concept on which the story was written, a planet where all life involves parasitism, is interesting, but the actual story left something missing. 3 stars
GOOD BOY by Nisi Shawl. On a distant planetary colony an unknown sickness is spreading and one citizen resorts to being possessed by spirits to address the problem. Not including the setting, not sure whether this is science fiction or supernatural. 2 stars
THE SECOND CARD OF THE MAJOR ARCANA by Thoraiya Dyer. A supernatural ancient deity returns to life and kills people who fail to answer her questions until she comes face to face with a computer that does. 3 stars
A SHORT ENCYCLOPEDIA OF LUNAR SEAS by Ekaterina Sedia. The title says it all. A list of lunar seas with silly descriptions. 1 star
VECTOR by Benjanun Sriduangkaew. This is a guess, but I think this is a homage to the movie THE MATRIX. The character is in the matrix and fights the system. Only a guess because it is not clear enough. 2 stars
CONCERNING THE UNCHECKED GROWTH OF CITIES by Angelica Gorodischer. First off, this is not science fiction, it is 100% high fantasy. The story reads like a 20 page marathon monologue summation of a 1000 page book. 1 star
THE RADIANT CAR THY SPARROWS DREW by Catherynne M. Valente. Alien super-whales on Venus and the mystery around them as seen by a female reporter. A slow start, but ends with a flair. A reasonable finish to the collection. 4 stars
Can't recommend this enough and for both males and females, the hubby loves this one. The only drawback is it isn't on kindle!
Highly recommend: Spider, the Artist (Okorafor), Valentines (Lipkin),Trickster (Kronher-Stace), and Radiant Car (Valente)