Harlan Ellison: The Beast that Shouted Love At The Heart Of The World



A lot of people skip introductions to books which is just as well in the case of this one. Ellison ranges from making offensive remarks about people with physical handicaps to finishing the introduction by saying that he really wanted to write an introduction about the story "A boy and his dog" but that he has no space left. This smacks me as the action of a writer who cannot be bothered and so, why write an introduction in the first place? Why not let the stories here stand on their own?

The twelve stories here, first published between 1957 and 1969, can stand up and speak for themselves very well indeed. From the opening shot of the title story to the close with "A boy and his dog" the author delivers a fine selection of his work.

There are no weak stories in this book, every one is a good read. The title story, "Try a Dull Knife", "Santa Claus VS. S.P.I.D.E.R." and "A boy and his dog" are my favourites and they show the range of Ellison's talents from horror to science fiction and also display his characteristic cynical humour.

"A boy and his dog" is the best known story here largely because it has been made into a very controversial film. It also happens to be one of Ellison's finest stories and that is praise indeed. It tells the story of fifteen year old Vic and his telepathic dog Blood in a post apocalypse America. Even though it is a brutish story, Ellison's wit and lucid writing style make it a compelling read.

The stories here will appeal to almost any SF fan though, if you are new to Ellison, the book "The Essential Ellison" is a better first buy. If you like this author and wonder what else you might like to read, I'd suggest short story collections by Bruce Sterling and Eric brown.

Although this book is out of print, it is available together with the anthology "Love ain't nothing but sex misspelled" as volume four of the Edgeworks series. I note though that the contents of the Edgeworks version are not the same as the contents of my copy of this book.

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My rating

Nine out of ten.

Ingnore the into and concentrate on the stories.

Detailed Contents

The Beast that Shouted Love At The Heart Of The World
Madness, it turns out is a force that can be extracted and even bottled. A group of advanced beings discovers that they can improve their world by draining off the madness and dumping it on the like of you and me. It doesn't sound like much but Ellison waves an entrancing magic into this. 8/10

Phoenix
An archaeologist discovers that old vanished cities can re-emerge after disappearing beneath the waves Is this a search for Atlantis or ...? 6/10

Asleep: with still hands
War is banished by a construction hidden beyond tampering that alters men's thoughts towards peace. Can men overcome the device and unleash dread destruction again? 5/10

Santa Claus VS. S.P.I.D.E.R.
The world's finest secret agent takes a disguise as Santa Claus and tackles an alien force that wants to conquer mankind by taking control of the minds of various right wing politicians. Quite funny. 7/10

Try a dull knife
Eddie Burma is an Empath and people feed upon his empathy until, one day, it is the death of him. 8/10

The Pitll Pawob Division
A cameo of alien abduction as seen by the aliens and not by the people. 6/10

White on white
Ellison's twisted wit conjures up a meeting between a gigolo and a Yeti. Amusing 6/10.

Run for the stars
A space romp in which men battle aliens and one man is set up as an expendable lure with a bomb inside him. But he turns the tables on everyone. 7/10

Are you listening?
A man fades into invisibility because he is such an inconsequential character. 7/10

S.R.O.
The circus comes to town. To the centre of New York and a group of aliens performs nightly for the crowds for free but if they don't want money, what will be their price? 6/10

Worlds to kill
A mercenary will conquer a planet for you, for a price. But why? What could be the motivation for a man to slaughter millions? Well, the motivation is a little facile in the end but the story does raise some ends and means questions. 7/10

A boy and his dog
Set in a post apocalypse future, we see the two characters in the title trying to survive and have some fun in the ruins that are left of the world. The boy, Vic meets a girl and eventually, is forced to choose between her and his dog Blood. The choice and the manner of his choosing are offensive to some but that does not change the fact that this is a stunningly good story. 10/10