For the third time, down that multi-colored rabbit hole to the unpredictable, singular, frequently disturbing Ellison Wonderland of the writer the New York Times summed up thus: "Harlan Ellison has the spellbinding quality of a great nonstop talker with a cultural warehouse for a mind." And this third expedition comes not a moment too soon. . . at exactly the moment a brilliant new film documentary, Dreams with Sharp Teeth, a film of the life and work of Harlan Ellison, is beginning it's premieres across America. Here, in 11 stories, a true memoir, five brand-new commentaries, and a linked horror story of Jack the Ripper by Ellison's great friend, the late Robert Bloch, the mesmerizing audio performance by the author provides in full measure the reason why Ellison has won Listen Up, Audio, and a shelf full of other awards, including investiture as one of the few Grand Masters of the literature of the fantastic. This one is the best yet.
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Originally posted at Fantasy Literature (includes links to art)
This is the third collection of Harlan Ellison’s short stories which he has narrated himself. Each of these Voice from the Edge audiobooks is quite excellent. I can’t say that I like every story — some of them are just to gross for me — but I can say that Ellison is a great storyteller and that there’s no better way to read his stories than to listen to him read them to you.
This collection contains:
“Between Heaven and Hell” — (first published in 1994 in Mind Fields: The Art of Jacek Yerka, the Fiction of Harlan Ellison) This is a very short piece (3 minutes) in which Ellison juxtaposes the wonderful and awful things of life. It reminds me of the book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible (“There is a time for to be born and a time to die….”). This story, and a few more in this volume, accompanies the surreal art of Polish artist Jacek Yerka in the book they were originally published in (which Ellison says is his favorite of his books). If you listen to these stories, I recommend that you look up the art on the internet.
“Pretty Maggie Moneyeyes” — (first published in 1967 in the collection I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream) In this novelette, which is one of Harlan Ellison’s personal favorites, a dead prostitute haunts a slot machine in Las Vegas. This story has the awesome line: “Maggie. Hooker. Hustler. Grabber. Swinger. If there’s a buck in it, there’s rhythm and the onomatopoeia is Maggie Maggie Maggie.” You’ve got to hear him read this one.
“Twilight in the Cupboard” — (1994, Mind Fields: The Art of Jacek Yerka, the Fiction of Harlan Ellison) Another extremely short piece with an interpretation of what the afterlife might be like. Here’s the accompanying art.
“Kiss of Fire” — (1973, Two Views of Wonder anthology) In a futurist world where humans can be rejuvenated and live for hundreds of years, a man who programs the death of non-human races on other worlds feels dissatisfied with his life.
“Fever” — (1994, Mind Fields: The Art of Jacek Yerka, the Fiction of Harlan Ellison) Ellison suggests what may have actually happened to Icarus. Here’s the art.
“The Discarded” — (1959, Fantastic) A prison ship carrying mutated humans orbits Earth. This feels like it belongs in one of George R.R. Martin’s WILD CARDS anthologies.
“Darkness Falls on the River” — (1994, Mind Fields: The Art of Jacek Yerka, the Fiction of Harlan Ellison). A vignette about growing up. It doesn’t really seem to go with the art.
“Status Quo at Troyden’s” — (originally published 1958 in what Ellison calls “a long-gone mystery magazine” but preserved for posterity in his 1975 collection No Doors, No Windows) I loved this story about an old man who is worried about losing his apartment when his son doesn’t send him enough money to cover his rent.
“Tired Old Man” — (1975, No Doors, No Windows) As he explains in the author’s note, this is a quasi-autobiographical story about a party that Harlan Ellison attended where he met a writer who inspired him. This is another of his favorites.
“The Silence” — (1994, Mind Fields: The Art of Jacek Yerka, the Fiction of Harlan Ellison) A one-minute piece. You kind of want to see the art for this one.
“Valerie: A True Memoir” — (1972, The Los Angeles Free Press) In This essay, Ellison gives the true account of a girlfriend named Valerie. It’s pretty amusing. This was later collected in the book Love Ain’t Nothing But Sex Misspelled.
“Base” — (1994, Mind Fields: The Art of Jacek Yerka, the Fiction of Harlan Ellison) This is the longest of the art pieces. It’s about a man who’s asked to come identify a corpse in the middle of a freezing Chicago night. In the afterward, Ellison explains that something similar really happened to him. Here’s the art, although it has nothing to do with the story. Ellison was using a different meaning for the word “base.”
“A Toy for Juliette” — (1967, Dangerous Visions anthology) This is a story by horror writer Robert Bloch which was originally published in an anthology that Ellison edited. It’s included here because the next story is Ellison’s sequel to this one. “A Toy for Juliette” is read by Bloch himself and the recording is very old. The story is about a young woman who’s a sadist and it’s really bizarre, but what makes it even more horrifying is that there’s childish music in the background and Bloch reads it with an incongruously cheery voice. Really creepy.
“The Prowler in the City at the Edge of the World” — (1967, Dangerous Visions) I really hated this novelette which is a sequel to Bloch’s story “A Toy for Juliette.” According to Ellison, it’s the most gruesome story he’s ever written and, if you know Ellison, you know what that means. I couldn’t handle it and had to start skipping through it toward the end. Be warned.
I didn’t like this collection quite as much as I liked the previous two Voice From the Edge audiobooks. The art vignettes didn’t do much for me (though I love the art that goes with them) and the two horror stories at the end were beyond what I can handle, but I did like several of the others, most notably “Pretty Maggie Moneyeyes,” “Status Quo at Troyden’s,” “Tired Old Man,” and “Valerie: A True Memoir.” Still, it’s always entertaining to listen to Harlan Ellison read his own stories and if you’re a fan of his, I insist that you acquire this audiobook series. I guarantee that you’ll love them.
Despite being charged the full price instead of the stated 10.95. along with the Horrible On-going mistake by audible to Combine all the files into on large 5 hour block(Even when its a Short Story collection)
There is no way you can go wrong with Harlan Ellison Narrating his own Stories.