The Mammoth Book of Mind Blowing SF edited by Mike Ashley

For that rare but thrilling sense of wonder – 21 awesome SF stories.

Many readers are attracted to science fiction for that singular moment when a story expands your imagination, enabling you to see something in a new light. Not all SF works this way! This volume collects the very best of it that does, with 21 of the finest examples of mind-expanding and awe-inspiring science fiction.

The storylines range from a discovery on the Moon that opens up vistas across all time to a moment in which distances across the Earth suddenly increase and people vanish. These are tales to take you from the other side of now to the very end of time – from today’s top-name contributors including Stephen Baxter, Alastair Reynolds, Robert Silverberg, Gregory Benford and Robert Reed.

the-mammoth-book-of-mindblowing-sfOut of the Sun by Arthur C. Clarke – 7/10
A nice simple short story looking at the possibility of sentient life within the sun. Short and sweet, but unfortunately average.

The Pevatron Rats by Stephen Baxter – 9/10
This is a good story about rats that appear inside a particle accelerator that show some very strange qualities that lead to an infestation the likes has not been seen before. I really enjoyed this one and like the twist in the story – a highlight of the collection.

The Edge of the Map by Ian Creasey – 8/10
A fairly simple story about the time when everywhere on Earth is mapped. In this we follow a reporter who just wants to record everything as she goes with a guide to the last possible place that will be mapped. Interesting twist and enjoyable.

Cascade Point by Timothy Zahn – 10/10
Definitely the highlight of the collection. This is a great story about a starship travelling to another planet by means of interstellar travel known as cascade points and what can happen when it goes wrong. The writing flows so easily off the page which makes one of the longest stories present one of the quickest reads. Excellent stuff.

A Dance to Strange Musics by Gregory Benford – 5/10
I just didn’t enjoy this one at all about a crew that arrives at a new planet with some strange things happening on it. Meh.

Palindromic by Peter Crowther – 8/10
Nicely titled story this one. If you know what a palindrome is then you’ll have a suspicion about the way the story is going, but it doesn’t make this story about aliens landing on Earth any less enjoyable.

Castle in the Sky by Robert Reed – 9/10
An interesting story about a discovery on the moon and the implications of what it can do to the human race. I liked this, especially as it followed the logic of what emotional human beings would do in this given situation.

The Hole in the Hole by Terry Bisson – 8/10
The writing style is what I really enjoyed about this interesting wormhole idea. I really had to suspend my disbelief while reading this, but the characters shine through and carry the story very well.

Hotrider by Keith Brooke – 7/10
A tale of the best hotrider, Tin Man, when he gets told he no longer has the job of surfing the sulfur seas of Io – hotriding takes on a whole new meaning. Good, but not great.

Mother Grasshopper by Michael Swanwick – 3/10
Much more a fantasy type tale than sci-fi, even though it has sci-fi elements. Possibly one of the weakest in the collection and definitely shouldn’t be here.

Waves and Smart Magma by Paul Di Filippo – 6/10
An okay story with some interesting characters and central idea. Worth reading, but not great.

The Black Hole Passes by John Varley – 7/10
A story that is as much about the characters as the situation and has some good interactions between the two. An old one, but still easily readable today.

The Peacock King by Ted White & Larry McCombs – 5/10
Another weak one in the collection and, unfortunately, rather forgettable.

Bridge by James Blish – 7/10
From what I can gather this is a story set early in a universe the author explored further and it does raise enough questions and gives plenty of sense-of-wonder and expectation. I may pick up these other stories based on this one.

Anhedonia by Adam Roberts – 8/10
One of the better stories in the collection and reminds me that I really should check out more of Roberts’ stuff.

Tiger Burning by Alastair Reynolds – 9/10
I really enjoyed this one and found that the idea – dimensions that are linked to one another and each with different physical properties – raises many questions, the most important one addressed by the end.

The Width of the World by Ian Watson – 9/10
Another rather interesting story where the distances between places on Earth get larger and many people disappear. A good story with a good ending, well worth reading.

Our Lady of the Sauropods by Robert Silverberg – 7/10
Essentially Jurassic Park on a space station, but with a twist. An enjoyable tale but I couldn’t stop thinking about the film, despite this story being written before it.

Into the Miranda Rift by G. David Nordley – /10
Another okay addition to the collection about vast, linked caverns under the surface of one of Uranus’ moons and the trek that the characters face while trying to get out.

The Rest is Speculation by Eric Brown – 8/10
A far, far, far future story, and while enjoyable it doesn’t have quite the sense of connection because of the setting. Still enjoyable though.

Vacuum States by Geoffrey A. Landis – 7/10
A very short story looking at zero-point energy and the first experiment to tap it. Not bad, but there is no resolution at all.

In conclusion, this collection has some very enjoyable stories while having weak ones too – very much like most collections I’ve read. However, my main gripe with this is the title – Mindblowing SF. I’m sorry, but it just isn’t. Yes, some stories have great ideas and themes, but they’re not mind blowing and don’t often give the sense of wonder I expected. It’s disappointing because of this, but put that out of your mind and you’ll find some good stories in here, both old and new.

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