Originally published in 1962 and updated in later decades with a new introduction, Ellison Wonderland contains 16 masterful stories from the author's early career.
This collection shows a vibrant young writer with a wide-ranging imagination, ferocious creative energy, devastating wit, and an eye for the wonderful and terrifying and tragic. Among the gems are "All the Sounds of Fear", "The Sky Is Burning", "The Very Last Day of a Good Woman", and "In Lonely Lands". Though they stand tall on their own merits, they also point the way to the sublime stories that followed soon after and continue to come even now, more than 50 years later.
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This is very early Ellison. So I would recommend this book to fans of his, but would not really recommend it to people who weren't fans. Ellison was just getting started, and the stories, particularly the endings, are a little bit... well the endings are just a lot of "let me explain what the ending is!" (Tell instead of show.)
If Ellison wrote novels, and selected a single narrator or narrated them himself then I would select one of those to read. I like full cast productions but I don't think it works as well for a short story collection such as this. I had to switch gears so much in terms of narrators.
I enjoyed the narrators, except for Alex Hyde-White, whose voice just didn't work for me. He was not a bad narrator, his voice was just VERY deep and resonated in a way that almost hurt my ears. But overall they were good, and handled the different voices well. There weren't as many characters to differentiate because the stories were short etc. Harlan also narrates all of the nonfiction he wrote for inclusion in this new edition, as well as the introductions to each story, and a few of the stories. Ellison is a great narrator, and is the best narrator for his work.
The afterword by Josh Olson mentioned a documentary Dreams With Sharp Teeth and I am going to get the documentary.
I am spoiled. This is my third Ellison collection. I have previously read Slippage and Hard Candy, which were very formative for me. This is in one way a disadvantage because I didn't follow Harlan from the beginning but in one way an advantage because I saw his later, more complex stories. Some things of note about the collection: There is one woman who narrates and she narrates one story (the story with a woman as protagonist, which Ellison co-wrote.) This means that it was very notable to me that other stories didn't have women as protagonists. Ellison is known for his introductions and essays as well--often giving writers permission, simply, for self-respect. If the advice doesn't apply to you the kinds of things he writes in these pieces might seem overblown in some ways. There are about 5 and a half of these essays in the beginning of the book. I love Harlan's attitude on writing, but these are a little bit repetitive, i.e. they were letters to people in publishing which he had saved and then dissected in an essay. It's writer geek stuff.
J Michael Straczynsky (Babylon 5) writes the foreward and Josh Olson (A History of Violence) writes the afterword.
- Erin Lewy
Your Audio Guide to Ellison Wonderland