As is the case with most of Ellison’s work, it’s a short story collection. Interestingly, this one contains a few personal stories of his, some true and some… exaggerated. I’m looking at you “The Hour That Stretches”.
My personal quest to read everything by Harlan Ellison continues. He’s a wonderful writer who stands the test of time, and this was a very strong series of stories. The thing that will always strike me about him is his very unique ideas. Cliches are hard to find in his work, and if they are present, they’re usually twisted upside-down and backwards.
Let’s talk about the strongest contenders for me. “Blank…” was truly inspired. I won’t give it away, but it has to be one of the most grisly fates for a character in all of speculative fiction. “The Cheese Stands Alone” had me very intrigued throughout, and I loved the way the protagonist dealt with existential horror. “Djinn, No Chaser” and “!!!The!Teddy!Crazy!!Show!!!” were both great for a laugh. And “Visionary” (co-written with Joe L. Hensley) is one of the most beautifully written stories I’ve ever read.
But what really makes this collection shine is the fact that Ellison threw in a few personal notes. “The 3 Most Important Things in Life” should be read by everyone, everywhere. It’s hilarious, then terrifying, then hilarious again. And real. “Somehow, I Don’t Think We’re In Kansas Anymore, Toto” recounts his awful turn with Hollywood in trying to make the show The Starlost. If you’re a fan of Ellison’s, you’ll have heard of this as a complete disaster. I had, but I didn’t know the full lowdown. Well, here it is, and it’s ugly. And so, so funny. It shouldn’t be funny, but in typical form, his rage is so eloquent that it’s hilarious.
This is a great read for anyone who is even halfway interested in this author, especially for those non-fiction elements.