Off Limits Tales of Alien Sex edited by Ellen Datlow a jpoc book review

Far too many weak stories.

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JPOC Rating

Three out of ten.

Very poor, very disappointing.

My review

The best stories in this collection are the short ones for the simple reason that they inflict less suffering on the reader than do the long ones. Seldom has a sequel fallen as far short of the standards set by its predecessor as does this anthology which is the follow up to the highly regarded Alien Sex. It contains 18 stories, 16 of which were new for this collection in 1996. The other four stories go back as far as the sixties. There are also two poems.

The dominant theme in this anthology is prostitution. Almost half of the stories deal with this topic in one form or another. By contrast, in the original anthology, there is a much greater variety of subject matter.

No more than half of the stories in here merit inclusion in an anthology and the others range from poor to utterly dreadful.

I can recommend Brian Stableford's "The House of Mourning" and Elizabeth Hand's "In the Month of Athyr" as standing out from the rest but of the other 18 pieces, I awarded more lower rankings than I have ever done for any other anthology that I have ever read.

If there is one way in which collection is like "Alien Sex" it is the fact that this is not a book of of erotic writing. I doubt that any reader will feel aroused by the content of the book. That is not a criticism, it's just that some of the write ups on the jacket are misleading.

If you like the general idea of a collection of stories about alien sex, you should buy "Alien Sex" from the same editor. That is a far better book.

In Detail

Silverberg, Robert: The Reality Trip
An alien, on a spying mission to Earth falls into a relationship with a woman. OK but not special. 6/10
Wade, Susan: The Tattooist
An artist accepts a commission to tattoo a man's private parts. Then she discovers that he is not really a man. The story didn't really seem to have anything to say though 4/10
Kaiine John: Dolly Sodom
A man visits a mechanised whore but what does he really want? Drivel but at least it was short 2/10
Coldsmith, Sherry: The Lucifer of Blue
Prostitutes in the Spain of the civil war turn men to support Franco through sex. A bit thin really. 5/10
Bradfield, Scott: The Queen of the Apocalypse
On one level, this is the story of a lonely incomplete girl getting pregnant and becoming fulfilled. On another level, it's drivel. 3/10
Matheson, Richard Christian: Oral
Well, if you are going to write rubbish, at least keep it short well done Richard. A man goes with a whore and only wants her to talk to him. Well that is original. 2/10
Ings, Simon: Grand Prix
A story based around G.P. racing, feminism and cyborgs reconstructed after terrible accidents. Mildly interesting and amusing. The author tries to show that he has a great feel for the GP. scene but he gives the game away with some major gaffes. 5/10
Stableford, Brian: The House of Mourning
Whores are given mutagenic viruses which turn their bodily secretions into psychotropic drugs. This story tells of the fate of those for whom the process went wrong. Now, this was a great tale. 8/10
Soukup, Martha: Fetish
A tale about a bearded lady. She undergoes biotech-changes to allow her to grow a beard because she wants to have sex with a man while she is wearing a beard. The reason? Read it and find out. Not that bad really. 6/10
Jones, Gwyneth: Red Sonja and Lessingham in Dreamland
Virtual sex, two people, one dream and it's a therapy session. An OK tale but not one that will stick in the mind.6/10
O'Driscoll, Mike: The Future of birds
Oh please, how many more same as before tales of altered whores do we have to read. This time, we have a tale about transsexual prostitutes and the disease-after-HIV which is killing all the women. 4/10
McAllister, Bruce: Captain China
And here is another one. This time, the story is told through the eyes of a young boy sold into prostitution. Apart from the fact that this is now getting boring, I am unhappy that this tale goes too far. I'm no prude and I am not offended but I am worried that this tale is erotica for those who use children for sexual purposes and so it should not have been printed. 1/10
Tuttle, Lisa: Background: The Dream
Either, a woman dreams that she has a penis and awakes with one or a man believes that he used to be a woman. take your pick. This is supposed to be funny. I would have given this a lower rank but Imarked it up in thanks for its brevity. 2/10
Delany, Samuel R: Aye, and Gomorrah
We are supposed to stand in awe of this tale which was first published in the Dangerous Visions anthology. It is an interesting story but, in this setting, it is just another tale of prostitutes. This time, spacers, removed of their sexuality before puberty are sought out by Frelks who will pay for their services. 5/10
Koja, Kathay & Malzberg, Barry N.: Ursus Triad, Later
Well, at least there are no whores in this tale. Instead, Goldilocks is help prisoner and repeatedly raped by the three bears. Rubbish. 1/10
Haldeman, Joe & Yolen Jane: Sextraterrestrials
If you want to see how desperate the editor was for some content, just read this. well, don't read it. Just skim it, it is worth no more. An assortment of poems about alien species having sex with of without humans. Written in quick time in a 'net chatroom they serve to show how badly people write when they hurry. 1/10
Oats, Joyce Carol The Dream-Catcher
A woman buys a dream-catcher as a souvenir of a visit to a Native American tourist site. Then in the night, she has a visitor. Better than most in here. 5/10
Lannes, Roberta: His Angel
A serial killer finds an angel and wants her for himself. But what will happen? Not bad at all. 6/10
Gaiman, Neil: Eaten (Scenes From a Moving Picture)
A horror poem in which humans are being kept merely to be eaten by other creatures. Not as bad as some of the stuff here but of no real merit. 3/10
Hand, Elizabeth: In the Month of Athyr
As the author notes in her introduction, this tale was inspired by Connie Willis' "All my Darling Daughters." A group of people are in exile on an orbiting space facility..One occupant brings aboard a genetically engineered sex object. As you would expect, this is a source of some disturbance to life aboard. 7/10