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FriedEgg

FriedEgg

I Have No Mouth & I Must Scream - Harlan Ellison A collection stories in a very fine edition with introductions to each story by the author and a general introduction by Theodore Sturgeon singing Ellison's praises. Someone who's opinion I don't take lightly as I regard Sturgeon's work as amongst the finest SF ever written. My impressions after finishing this collection are that Sturgeon was pretty much correct.

Ellison's approach is to shock and to provoke a reaction in the reader. He seems to carry a sense of frustration with people and society, a conviction that we all to often fail each other and ourselves. Deep down, a lot of us are just plain bad but don't face up to that fact and see ourselves as better than we really are, too quick to make excuses for our own inadequacies. When given the chance live up to our self delusions we all too easilly fail (as in "Delusion for a Dragon Slayer"), when forced to confront our true nature, we loose the will to live (as in "World of the Myth") or even when Ellison does depict true altruism, the protagonist's only reward is eternal and unimaginable suffering (as in "I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream"). Ellison doesn't do happy endings, at least not in this book.

Ellison usually uses SF settings but the real focus is on the people. I would definitely call these horror stories but usually the horror is what he reveals about human nature. Some will definitely find him too harsh or negative to enjoy his work but I think there is an elegance to his prose and wonderfully evokative imagery. My favourite story in the collection "Lonelyache" could not be described as SF at all but was a great portrayal of someone losing their mind after an acrimonious break up. An absolute masterpiece in my opinion.

I've given this collection five stars, and although the standard of the stories was consistantly high, they weren't all of such a high standard. I definitely want to read more of his work.