Book Review: The Beast That Shouted Love at the Heart of the World by Harlan Ellison

The Beast That Shouted Love at the Heart of the World - Harlan Ellison

The Basics


A collection of speculative fiction by the one-and-only Harlan Ellison. Many of the stories here, including the title tale, were award winners. Should make for a strong outing. Does it?


My Thoughts


This was a somewhat strong collection. The title story sets the pace with some very strange, almost impenetrable imagery and Ellison spinning some of his best poetry among prose. “Shattered Like a Glass Goblin” has a good bit of that, too, so if you love the title story (it’s so much easier to say that than to type it over and over, much as it’s a unique title that I love), you’ll love that one, too.


Among my favorites here are “Along the Scenic Route”, which I’ve seen a lot of people mention. It was quirky, funny, exciting, and saying all that, it has the recipe to be a great movie if someone were so inclined. “The Pitll Pawob Division” was short and very amusing, made all the more punchy for its quickness. “S.R.O.” has a wonderful twist that’s parts both funny and chilling. And I have to mention “Run for the Stars” as a wonderfully paced action/science-fiction story that forces you on with white knuckles.


But there’s a downside. I hate that there is, because so many of these stories are so strong. “Santa Claus vs. S.P.I.D.E.R.” is not only made up of cheesy humor that relies on mocking the spy genre as it was at the time and seems very outdated now, it’s final punchline is a rape joke. The story wasn’t very compelling up to that point, and upon reaching said point I was actively pissed.


Possibly the most controversial thing I’ll say in this review is that “A Boy and His Dog” is the most misogynistic, ugly waste of paper I’ve ever read. The girl’s personality changed to suit whatever mood Ellison wanted her to be in, going from being the love of Vic’s life to expendable because she was shrill at the drop of a hat. And should I even get into the way sex is handled in this story? I understand that a culture with a lowered population of women is going to be skewed about sex, but things get even more problematic than that.


So it lost a star. My rule is when a book is a collection, I rate it based on a ratio. Good stories to bad. So obviously, the good far outweighs the bad. It’s worth your time save two stories. And those stories? I’d skip them.


Final Rating