excellent and well written, i enjoyed the entire Smiley series even though technically he's not the main character in some of them and only pops up intermittently.
I only encourage you to get this short piece which made me think of the robert Bloch Toy for Juliette story because I want to get Audible to do the classic Bester novels, Demolished Man, and Stars, My Destination.
By itself it is ok, and I in general don't like this one short piece for $4 type crap that's happening all the time now, (though I wish I could have picked and chose 1 at a time of Ellison and saved $ and time getting 3-4 good ones instead of hours of his drek).
Anyway, as I say, I only got it to show them an interest in Bester and hope for the 2 great ones.
I like the idea, and I like elements of the story, but it is so poorly written that I had trouble with it. Especially after having just come from To Say Nothing of the Dog, which is so well written.
And the narrator doesn't do well, mispronouncing words, altering his pronunciation of the same word later; not doing voices well at all, not even trying to give Churchill a distinct voice and yet oddly enough trying to do it for Einstein.
Aside from that, I didn't believe in the world at all. & here's why. If you compare To Say Nothing wherein the research into the period is so well done but also the characters are living in that world...But in this one, there are times when the description feels like, "oh, yeah, I need to describe that time period, so let me list elements in this picture I'm looking at". The characters don't really interact with the environment in a way that makes you believe in it.
I really was hoping it would be good with the SF & Time Travel & WWII. Though I did like the multiple worlds/quantum physics aspect very much, but just can't recommend it; not when there is a superior Time Travel with the Willis To Say Nothing....
I do think it would make an interesting film or mini series with good recreations of the time period etc. And there are a couple of ideas near the end which almost redeem it. With revision and a better narrator it could be good.
I'm being a little hard on it, and I admit that it suffered mightily due to listening right after To Say Nothing which had pitch perfect narration also. Basically Willis does everything right, and Hogan misses on so many points.
Why did I wait so long to try this? I thoroughly enjoyed this from start to finish. The opening scene is a little confusing because you start "in medias res" as they say, in a scene that it takes you a bit to understand where they are and what they're up to, though you don't even get all those details immediately, some of which you slowly figure out as the story progresses.
But do not worry, all will be explained at the end, a bit like an Agatha Christie novel. And much like a Christie mystery there are mysterious happenings and information doled out along the way to give you a chance to fill in some of the story.
This book has a little of everything: SF; mystery; romance; comedy; history. And it's not a zip zip type of time travel, though there is a bit of that. The majority of the story takes place in Victorian England and has some comedy of manners that is very funny at times.
And I listened to 3 Men in a Boat first just in case it helped, but I don't think it's necessary, just added a bit to recognize a couple items when they popped up. & I have not listened to Doomsday Book which technically comes before this and it did not matter in the slightest to me. But on the strength of this I will be getting more Willis and this series, but I knew this was funny whereas the others may be more serious so wanted to try it first.
And I gave the book to a friend to read on the plane and she loved it and laughed out loud and she didn't read 3 Men nor others in this series either, so I think you can safely enjoy it.
It very much reminded me of A Confederacy of Dunces in the comic element and also in the masterful plotting, with so many threads coming together at the finale. & also the Jack Finney Time & Again and Time After Time where the time travel is only part of the story, it really is more about the characters encountered.
So if you want a mystery type novel built around time travel and victorian manners comedy here it is. If you want zipping around and hardware better go to Well's Time Machine and others. Not saying those are bad, I love Wells, but they are a different breed.
it was my honest intention to get through all 5 sets of stories but I don't think I can make it. I got done with Adrift off the Islets... (another supposed award winner) and saw that I still have 3&1/2 hours to go. enough is enough.
my honest opinion is that Ellison's boorishness and brow beating have worn down those who should stand up to him. I find little of interest in his style and stories. after 50 + stories I have found 3 or 4 that I would recommend to friends. that is not a good percentage.
in his arrogance he is proud to tell you that a couple of these stories are as they were after first draft, no changes. Well, either he's lying or he doesn't respect the craft enough to rewrite. I suspect it's a little of both; I'm sure he thinks his every word and sentence are golden perfection. I guess he doesn't need to rewrite; he's better than Hemingway and Shakespeare and Melville and Nabokov then.
as far as I've gotten in this set, the best story is Shatterday. Now, here's an interesting tidbit. As litigious as Ellison is, filing lawsuits against anyone and everyone he feels is in any way stepping on his ideas, I wonder if he filed suit against himself on behalf of Walter Tevis, (author of Man Who Fell to Earth, a brilliant novel), whose story The Other End of The Line begins, opening paragraphs, with a man, George Bledsoe, mistakenly calling his own phone number and having it answered by himself. In Tevis' story there is a time displacement, but the opening is so strikingly similar that I was shocked and immediately thought Ellison cribbed it. (Tevis by the way is a far superior writer whose masterful Mockingbird deserves to be narrated here, as well as his non-SF novels.)
& why not acknowledge Tevis given Harlan's penchant for name dropping to make sure you know all the important people he's met etc., and read, let's not forget how badly he wants you to know how well read he is, and how intelligent and how many multisyllabic words he can use blah blah blah.
I have 5 books of Ellisons gathered over the years because he's "important" but it's time to get rid of them. Pain God; Strange Wine; Stalking the Nightmare; Deathbird; & Essential Ellison contain a majority of the stories in these 5 audios and I've read a handful outside the audios but again, not worth continuing.
& I see that Ellison is hit or miss with people as well, not just me. many are put off by his arrogance. some think he's a terrible narrator, others think he's great. some think his stories are terrible, others think they're great. obviously you have to find out for yourself. I can no longer overlook his slapdash style which i'm sure is considered by some to be experimental and cutting edge. I find it to be sloppy and uncontrolled. Perhaps I'm being harsh due to my disappointment and thinking of so many (like Tevis) who get passed by in favor of the loudmouth in the room. perhaps, but let's at least stop calling Ellison a masterful writer and his stories masterpieces; he does have a couple that are well written which stand out and that I will suggest to friends, & I admit Harlequin contains enough to be taught in class and discussed, but a handful is not enough.
I have read a ton of SF over the years and have sentimental favorites, but even I can admit that not everything Clarke & Bradbury wrote is brilliant. And oddly enough at least 2 of Bradbury's absolute masterpieces have nothing to do with fantasy or SF. Ellison should shut his mouth for a bit and concentrate and trust his writing and not throw in the kitchen sink when it doesn't belong.
I do think Ellison is more dark fantasy than SF and that element also I think bothers me; not because it's dark or fantasy, but because there is an element of "and then magic happened" that destroys the reality of a given story, or violates the internal logic of a story, and when there are no "rules" governing a narrative anything can happen, and does, and so how do i invest myself in a story or a character, how can you ground yourself in a surrealist landscape that shifts without notice? Alice in Wonderland's surrealism works for me, as did Berry's Manual of Detection, Ellison's doesn't.
And what are you going to do with a sentence like,
"Crickets gossiped shamelessly, close beside his head."
I'm sure he thinks it's precious and brilliant, I find it foolish. At the risk of sounding like Ellison, "you pays your money, you takes your chance."
Killing Bernstein was best story, then probably Whimper of Whipped Dogs.
But Whipped Dogs is a good story to point out where he goes wrong so often. It is a very good story until near the end, and then he doesn't trust his writing enough to let the story stand on its own and expose society's ills and individual actions within that world, he has to bring in the supernatural element. It totally dilutes the power of the story.
sorry but Deathbird was a mess and Croatoan is too Lovecraftian (another "classic" writer who is woefully poor). All Croatoan did for me was make me yearn to have Pynchon's V on audio.
you can only get so far with outlandish description and grotesquery and the Bosch-ian surrealism, at some point the stories have to make sense or at least stay true to their own internal logic/world.
and you can only get so far telling me to be scared when the writing doesn't warrant it, as will be seen in V5 story Flop Sweat, which he insists in his again lengthy (& Unnecessary) intro, scared the s*** out of people. I have to laugh; nothing scary nor hair-raising in it.
to sum up prior to finishing V5, this collection could have been boiled down to a best of and done in one volume without his intros as well. leave all the intros and lesser stories to a separate volume for Ellison-philes. At the very least present the stories individually to allow people to get the "best" one at a time and see if they want to get more. I am getting through to the end mainly for the supposed "classic" and award winners so that I can see what all the hoopla is about, but for me at least it will not be worth it by the end.
when there are far better stylists out there and more intellectually interesting and important writers for the SF field like Delany and Bester who can't seem to get on audio I can't help but be disappointed when they don't show. & on the strength of Strugatsky's Roadside Picnic, I'd rather see more of theirs show up.
sorry but actually the best story in this volume is not by Ellison, but rather the Toy for Juliette by Robert Bloch. & Harlan was so inspired by it that he had to write a sequel to it -Prowler in the City....; should have left it alone.
Discarded is probably the best Ellison in this one. and like the previous volume, you'd think the title piece would be the best, but it's not good. (Midnight in Sunken Cathedral was a complete mess I thought and rather simplistic.) Pretty Maggie is not good either. In fact his titles to stories are far superior to the stories themselves and things i envision from the titles are more interesting.
The Valerie bio bit is at least amusing. (Don't forget Harlan is a Man and good at pounding his chest over his "conquests".)
on to V4
again, if you've seen my V1 review you know in general what i think.
I will say that Soft Monkey & Jefty is 5 are by far the best in here. They are the only 2 i would consider re-listening to.
Rat Hater is simply an amped-up idea "stolen" from the end of 1984 and like Stephen King, many times all that is done is an existing idea is taken and sex and blood and violence and swearing are poured on in generous doses. If you strip away some of this "camouflage" you will begin to see how thin the writing is. This is true of almost all of Ellison and King's stories.
I don't find the majority of his stories to be well written, creepy, thought-provoking nor even interesting.
on to V3
Harlan Ellison is the best writer ever, just ask him, he'll tell you. Why he thinks so can be attributed to his ginormous ego; why others think so is beyond me.
2 stories are worth listening to in this volume, and sorry but I have no mouth is not one of them. I would say Repent, Harlequin is by far the best and carries some depth. Boy and his Dog is at least interesting in a post-apocalyptic manner. That's it for me. & why he thinks Grail is so great is a mystery. Most of the other stories are poorly written, boring, pointless etc.
& the audio effects for I have no Mouth are infuriating: he whispers and shouts and you have to keep changing volume and then when you turn it up to hear his whisper there's a jarring loud noise effect.
& his intros to stories are also maddening. sometimes he spends more time patting himself on the back than the actual duration of the story. This is more prevalent in his print but does happen in all of these Voice from the Edge audios. (See Dangerous Visions sometime for intros that are longer than the stories, ridiculous)
I am about done with all 5 of these collections and am not impressed. I was determined to give him benefit of the doubt and look past his irritating personality and listen to all of these and I consider the venture to be a waste of time and validates my opinion of him.
What has surprised me is how consistently poor his stories are especially many of the award winners. I think this speaks volumes about the status of SF writing and also the "dazzle them with BS" theorem, at which he excels.
& lest you think I'm a prude and his language and sex and bloodshed are the stoppers I would refer you to a truly horrific novel like Johnny Got His Gun, or the poetically and symbolically rich Painted Bird. & experimentally I'd refer you to Stand on Zanzibar or in print Riddley Walker.
on to volume 2
I like the opening of this and had high hopes but it really loses track of itself about halfway in. It's almost as though Herbert forgot what the story was about and wrote something related but not nearly as interesting. It starts out as an eco-thriller perhaps, with the earth "fighting" back with some type of composite bug creature that can mimic humans and then that very interesting character and premise is forgotten.
At about the 3 hour mark the whole story derails into some lame river survival thing wherein the people are worried about the bugs but nothing really happens until last 10 minutes when we finally get back to Green Brain intelligent creature and what it's up to but never back to mimic man. There is an excellent short story by Wolheim i think called Mimic which the movie was made from that I thought this was going to do something similar but this really gets boring. It ends where it should have gotten to by half way point and then gone on.
And Brick, who used to be a decent narrator has really picked up some bad habits with his breathless whispering and tone of voice that always sounds on the verge of crying. Irritating and all the characters and voices end up sounding like whiners.
Not impressed with this one. Dune is still by far Herbert's best. And after slogging through entire Dune series and several stand alone novels I'm afraid Dune is only one I can recommend to people.
as you can see I've been on a bit of a Beowulf stint and always enjoyed this one from way back. Gardner is a fine writer who worked a lot with mythic/classic stories and elements and there is more depth regarding his structure and philosophical ponderings than I certainly realized at first. I like much of what he attempted here, though I have not yet sorted it all out regarding the zodiacal significance and all his philosophical elements and I plan to keep studying it.
I do think that from a "purist" angle some of the language is anachronistically modern and takes you out of the story and time period, but on the other hand he is experimenting with an existentialist monster so I have to let it go.
there is some very nice writing and imagery and I would like to see the film made of this to see what they did.
I don't mind Guidall though I do try to avoid him & I am a little prejudiced toward his readings partially due to running across him so often with Recorded Books years ago; it is hard to not pick up on verbal quirks thru saturated exposure. Though this is before he got too heavily into some irritating habits. When he gets too heavily into the whispery, drawn out, overly dramatic ending to every sentence I cringe; I can not tolerate his Frankenstein reading. Rudnicki has some similar quirks.
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