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Roger

Los Angeles, CA, United States

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  • The Deathbird & Other Stories: The Voice from the Edge, Volume 4

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 1 min)
    • By Harlan Ellison
    • Narrated By Harlan Ellison, Theodore Bikel, Stefan Rudnicki, and others
    Overall
    (44)
    Performance
    (38)
    Story
    (38)

    In a prolific career spanning more than 50 years, Harlan Ellison has been the acclaimed master of speculative fiction. In fact, a 1999 Locus poll named him the all-time best writer of short fiction as well as the editor of the all-time best anthology (Dangerous Visions). In addition to his dozens of Hugo, Nebula, and Locus Awards, Ellison has won two Edgar Awards from the Mystery Writers of America, and multiple Bram Stoker Awards from the Horror Writers Association (including the Lifetime Achievement Award).

    Roger says: "Muscular, poetic, weird stories by master"
    "Muscular, poetic, weird stories by master"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    A collection of 13 stories mostly dating from around 1974 and after, and most are read by H. Ellison. The standouts are the later "magical realism"-style and fragmented stories that Ellison was mastering in the '70s through the '80s, "The Deathbird" and particularly "The Man Who Rowed Christopher Columbus To Shore" (both award winners).

    I feel Ellison's reading style tends to oversell the language and the emotions (he tends to lapse into dialects too) and can be a bit distracting in his emphatic delivery, particularly in "Killing Bernstein" here in which he is making sure it reads "funny" and "How Interesting: A Tiny Man" which has been added a layer of "outrage" but the 2 above, "Deathbird" and "Man who Rowed" are read more quietly by 2 readers who have fantastic voices (I believe Deathbird is read by Theodore Bikel) and are quite powerful for letting the words do the talking without Ellison's hyperactivity. "The Deathbird" was notoriously hard for me to follow on the page and having heard it here I really appreciated its subtle powers.

    Later stories like "On The Slab" and "Croatoan" and "The Whimper of Whipped Dogs" are firmly of the era in which most of HE's protagonists are doomed and adrift in an unfriendly universe, forced to negotiate with evil forces and impulses that have been brought to light through their own (often inadvertent) actions. There are seldom happy endings in Ellison's stories but rather, there are realizations of our own duplicity, our own limitations, our own willingness to live with hurt and damage if we can survive another day.

    Some of the later pieces included ("Ellison Wonderland" (1994, after the Jacek Yerka painting), "The Creation of Water", "The Dreams A Nightmare Dreams") are shorter poetic exercises less plotted stories than mood pieces. Ellison's language always has a muscular force and the increasingly poetic turns of phrase and metaphors lend themselves well to aloud reading. The collection also includes HE's "Run For The Stars" a long late '50s SF tale that is the most dated piece here and is ultimately unremarkable yet seems to be one of HE's favorites as it is constantly being reprinted and recycled for his collections.

    This is a great way to hear some of HE's famous stories read almost as if they were meant to be enjoyed that way.

    Ellison Wonderland, The Creation of Water, Run For the Stars, Beast Who Shouted..., On The Slab, The Dreams A Nightmare Dreams, The Whimper..., Killing Bernstein, and How Interesting A Tiny Man are all read by Ellison.

    The Deathbird, Croatoan, The Man Who Rowed..., and Count the Clock That Tells The Time are read by other readers in the collection.
    Comment

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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