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I love mustelid haberdashery, vinho verde wine, and wensleydale with fruit.

Deathbird Stories

Deathbird Stories - Harlan Ellison I read this for 12 Grandmasters in 2012 challenge. I had heard of Ellison, of course. I know who he is, I’ve heard the rumors, the gossip, the cool talk about him. He’s rough. He’s crude. He’s a blazing asshole. He’s brilliant. This is, however, the first time I’ve actually read anything by him (of course I’ve seen things that he’s written screenplays for). He’s definitely unique, and I don’t think I’ve read anything that touches him.

This is a compilation of short stories, whose theme seems to be “god” or “gods.” The death of gods, little gods, new gods, modern gods. It’s loose, but it works (mostly). There are some stories that feel dated, but overall it’s not too bad.

The book/stories are inconsistent, but brilliant where it’s good. The good stories pale next to the brilliant ones, so otherwise good stories don’t seem very good at all. I would suggest it be read in small chunks, digest and give breathing room for other (not so brilliant) stories to shine. Of course, after a brilliant story, digesting time seems mandatory anyway.

Here’s a list of my favorite stories and my love for them -

The Whimper of Whipped Dogs - This story is inspired/framed by the murder of Kitty Genovese. Its an award winner and it’s very dark … very grimy, and gritty and everything that seems to be the reality of living in a large, impersonal city/society. The story is what you have to accept to survive. And it’s so cold it burns. It’s the first story in this book and talk about starting off with a bang, wow.

Basilisk - a harsh, twisted story about a vietnam vet who was tortured until he talked, and what happened to him when he came home after the publicity and court-martial. There’s a monster, a horrible monster, and it’s an amazing intra and interpersonal story even without the fantasy element.

Pretty Maggie Moneyeyes - boring premise, but gorgeously written characters, especially Maggie. Kostner is down on his luck/life and tries his hand at gambling in Vegas and nearly loses it all - or does he? His destiny crosses with that of Maggie - a dangerous and exotic woman who wants it all, one way or another. Gorgeous

Delusion for a Dragon Slayer - I liked this one a lot for a myriad of reasons. One, is that it was kind of random, and I think that was part of the story’s point. A million different little inconsequential things can lead to the life, death, or glory of a consequential or inconsequential person. The story not only joined together some really random lives, but then managed to go into a sword & sorcery tale of heaven and how we lead ourselves into our own beliefs and expectations. I had this gloriously old school set of images running through my head in this story, and I just loved the pay off.

Adrift Just Off the Islets of Langerhans: Latitude 38° 54' N, Longitude 77° 00' 13" W - A man wants to die, but first he has to find his soul. I thought it was interesting, and fun, and dry. It wasn’t scary at all, but incredibly interesting. There’s a lot of random, which is interesting, but sometimes it feels like Ellison is babbling a wee bit too much.

The Deathbird - The book started off with one of the best stories and it ends with the best story. This one won the Hugo, and it totally deserves it. It’s one of the most random, interesting, and engrossing novellas I’ve ever read. God, isn’t so much an omniscient, omnipotent being as some asshole that won a lawsuit that gave him the right to Earth. The creator gods get caught in “God’s” PR campaign and become the maligned evil snake. A man, a descendant of Adam, must put the Earth out of her misery, as he did for his own corporeal mother and bring about the Deathbird. There’s a lot of different styles mashed together, and it really works well. Transitions are abrupt, but fit. I adore this story.

And here is meh to WTF to yuck -
Along the scenic route - a logical progression of road rage to an awful end. Decent, but not thrilling
On the Downhill Side - style and writing are beautiful, even if the story is boring.
O Ye of Little Faith - Short, but sweet
Neon - OK, I’m not entirely sure what went on, but it wasn’t terribly dark or anything
Corpse - What if cars were sentient... it could have been a lot better, and this particular story felt very dated.
Shattered Like a Glass Goblin - I’m not sure how I feel about this story. Army dude gets discharged and finds his lost fiance in a drug den in LA. It deals with the monsters of drugs and drug use, but not in any way that feels really satisfactory to me. It got a little weird, but not necessarily in a good way. I could have lived without and I’m not sure where Ellison was going.
The Face of Helene Bournouw - interesting start, weak payoff. I was disappointed at the ending.
Bleeding Stones - my response was something of an “um, what?” Not a fan.
At the Mouse Circus - I have no idea what the hell that was, but damn it was weird. Mostly Fail.
The Place with No Name - So Jesus Christ and Prometheus are homosexual alien lovers and none of it makes one bit of sense or a good story. Fail.
Paingod - Meh.
Ernest and the Machine God - Not the best story, but I thoroughly enjoyed the writing and imagery in this one.
Rock God - Feels super dated. And I really wanted the story to go somewhere or mean something, especially the people the mote-soul changed hands with.