Monday, December 15, 2008

The Essential Ellison: A 50 Year Retrospective by Harlan Ellison

The Essential Ellison: A 50 Year Retrospective by Harlan Ellison now how to review 1200 pages of material? It took me three months to get through this. It's so dreary I could only stand about 50 pages at a time . Besides the occasional short story in a multi-author collection this is my first exposure to his writing. By its very nature this is going to be a little vague. There are short stories, essays and a TV script. Ellison's writing is very good. He has the gift of showing characterization in a word or action. This is not a best of collection there are thematic chapters although even the editors admit that many of the stories could be placed in one of several sections. As far as the "classic" stories go some of them hold up better than others "Repent, Harlequin!" Said the Ticktockman and A Boy and His Dog still hit with a surprising amount of force. I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream on the other hand comes off as being well, ridiculous.

Let's get something straight this did not need to be 1200 pages it probably didn't need to be 400 pages. There's a lot here that is just good. Which admittedly makes it better than average but still how many times do we need to hear about his dog that was killed when he was 5? Come to think of it I found much of the semi-biographical fiction some of the weakest.

Amusingly there are some defensive introductions included by the editors. My favorite is the one that says that Ellison can't be misogynistic because his female characters don't revel in their victimhood. Later on there is a piece where Ellison attacks slasher films for being misogynistic. I don't think that the female characters in those movies are reveling in their victimhood.

Grumbling aside this is a valued part of my science fiction bookshelf. I'll probably be looking for more. Looking through his list of books and there's so much here I'm not too sure where to move on. If anyone has some suggestions feel free.


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