Fiction Reviews


Troublemakers

(2001) Harlan Ellison, Edgeworks Abbey/ibooks, 7.99, pbk, 293pp, ISBN 0-7434-2398-4

This was not a review copy. I paid money for this, even though I can't afford it and even though I have all the stories in it, except three. And why did I do this? Because it's worth it, of course! Because Ellison is probably the best writer to grace the last half century. Because he's not a yutz, and gets the little things right, like culs-de-sac and not, as lesser mortals write, cul-de-sacs; and like using the word akimbo correctly, not a leg in sight. Because even Ellison's 'bad' is twice as good as most other writers' 'good'. Because he can write, goddammit! And because, when I go into bookshops, there is a line of Phil Dick titles, which is only right, and a line of Iain Banks titles, which is only right, but there is only one (or fewer) Ellison titles, and that isn'tright.

So, even though there wasn't a lot in this volume for me personally, it's obviously intended, to some degree, to be for the reader new to Ellison and, in that, it's as good a place to start as any. There are sixteen tales, some excellent, some merely good (even Shakespeare produced the odd thing that sucked), and at least three bona fide classics: Soldier, "Repent, Harlequin!" Said the Ticktockman, and Jeffty is Five. And yes, OK, so Ellison is doing his usual I'm-so-wise-learn-from-me schtick, and yes, he's an arrogant SOB, and yes, the connection(s) between stories are a bit spurious, since each has been connected to different stories in different ways in different volumes; but Jeez, the man's good enough to have more than one theme per story, so shoot him already! Or just read the tales and skip the bullshit. Whatever. If you haven'tencountered Ellison before, do yourself a favour and buy this book. Would I lie to you? After I paid money?!

Tony Chester


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