Book Review: I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream

I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream - Harlan Ellison

The Basics


A collection of short fiction by Harlan Ellison in which the title story is one of his most famous. It follows a group of people who are the last humans on earth. They are being kept alive by a supercomputer named AM, who also tortures them for his amusement. The situation is incredibly hopeless, but is there still escape left for them?


My Thoughts


I want to focus at first on “I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream”, the title story, for this review. It’s incredibly famous. When people talk about Ellison, this story inevitably comes up. I kept managing to skip all around it, even with my exhaustive reading of everything Ellison I could get my hands on. It was starting to get ridiculous. I’d listened to an audio book version, read by Ellison himself. I’d watched a let’s play of the damn video game. It was time I sat down and read it.


And it’s great. It really is. It’s as twisted and frightening and dark as its reputation says. I will say there are stories of his I like more, but I think that’s what happens when hype interferes. I see the reason for the popularity of it and the potential it held to be expanded on the way it was with the game, and I have no real complaints. Aside from maybe it’s the highlight of the collection. This book as a whole is very slim, and the publishers are counting on readers buying it for that story.


I especially liked “Pretty Maggie Moneyeyes”, another strong story. “World of the Myth” was a great concept with some problematic sexism. I hate noticing these things, but this is what happens when you read older fiction. That has become my mantra. “Delusions of a Dragon Slayer” seems like it’s about to head down the same, sad road, and then it takes a turn that I really liked that makes me wish Ellison could always write those situations that way. The rest of the stories were middle of the road for me, and I wanted more.


So in essence, a collection with a classic story trying to ride that classic story for all it’s worth. And it could’ve been more.


Final Rating