I Have No Mouth & I Must Scream (2024)

Abby

20 reviews23 followers

November 29, 2015

EDIT: 11/29/2015: Hi. It's been almost five years since I wrote this review and I've learned a lot about feminism and misogyny and what constitutes GOOD writing to me. So I decided I should come back to this and append this review with a disclaimer: I wrote this before A: coming out as trans and B: realizing that I don't have to defend a writer for the things they do well when their writing is overshadowed by disgusting and horribly backwards views regarding marginalized groups. So while I'm gonna leave this review as I wrote it, (It's seriously weird to me that this throwaway review I wrote years ago still gets likes and is apparently the highest rated review of this collection. Whaaaaat?) I am going to reduce the rating I gave it from three to two stars and put this big red disclaimer on here: Don't read this. I don't care if it's considered a classic of scifi. I don't care if you really liked the game. I don't care about how meaningful the social commentary in it is. The title story shames it's lone female character for being raped and victimized by the other protagonists and another story focuses around the idea that a woman is pathetic because she "lets" one of her shipmates rape her. And the rest of the stories just treat women like utter sh*t.

Seriously. It's gross.

You don't need to read this. There are plenty of other scifi novels and collections that are just as if not more well regarded that do not have such heinous opinions about women in them. Hell, there are plenty of works that DO have terrible social views that are still far more redeemable than this dreck. Just because IHNMAIMS has name brand recognition does not mean you need to read it or you Fail At Liking Sci Fi.

So yeah okay, now that I've gotten the new and updated review out of the way, here's the original one that has somehow managed to hang on and be the most well received review here. Enjoy!

*****

Harlan Ellison is an asshole.

No really. He is a sexist, condescending, co*cky, arrogant prick. His sense of superiority oozes out of every one of the stories' introductions in this collection. Wherever there is a female character, she is portrayed as weak, whorish or manipulative. In the intro to "Pretty Maggie Moneyeyes" he casually refers to the woman that inspired the story as someone who he wanted to lay, but didn't get an opportunity to. He constantly talks about his writing as if it was God's gift to science fiction.

Harlan Ellison is an asshole.

But he is an excellent writer! I had long given up on science fiction due to how much garbage there is in the genre, so when I picked up "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream" on a friend's recommendation I didn't expect much. I was pleasantly surprised. Ellison's writing has a natural flow to it, very rarely feeling stilted or forced. His story telling is hallucinogenic in quality; each story in this collection reads like an acid trip. Plots swirl and contort. Characters pass through realities both familiar and foreign like they were just walking to the store, unquestioning, accepting of the alien nature of the worlds around them. Everything about this collection has a dreamlike feel to it, always just real enough to fool the senses into not recognizing the facade around them. The title story I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream starts the collection off with a bang as it tells the story of a cruel, hateful AI that eternally torments the last five humans left alive. It perfectly embodies that hallucinatory quality that I mentioned before; AM manipulates the five poor peoples' DNA, grants them immortality just so it can torture them indefinitely, sets them against giant beasts of legend, all while displaying control over matter and reality that is Godlike in nature. Lonelyache is the story of a man who's depression and regret over the failure of his marriage drives him to adultery, until his sins come together to quite literally haunt him. Delusion For a Dragon Slayer is easily the trippiest of the tales as it weaves through a parable about the afterlife and the horrid beast that hides in the heart of all men.

This is not to say that this collection is perfect. There is a reason why I rated it three stars and not four or five. Not all the stories are worth a second read; Big Sam Was My Friend plods along, and while it makes a poignant point at the end about selfishness and selflessness, it's not quite enough to save it from its boring, plodding pace. Eyes of Dust is a similar situation. Again, it hits home with its commentary on vanity, but the ending is convoluted at best, leaving the metaphor mixed and confusing. And the rampant sexism is very hard to ignore, especially in World of the Myth where Ellison comes just short of justifying rape because a woman flirts or teases a man with no other way to release himself sexually. Seriously I cannot express just how anti-woman this book is, you just have to read it to see what I mean. And his inflated sense of self in the introductions is very off putting. I understand that it's okay to feel good about you work, but Ellison's conceit is obnoxious at best and almost comes to overshadow the stories themselves, particularly when they deal with the dangers of being arrogant and selfish.

So while these stories were, for the most part, exceptionally written, I don't think I will be reading any of them again (except for the title piece, which is easily one of the top ten best science fictions that I've ever read). Ellison's fables, while arguably insightful and thought provoking, suffer greatly from the offensively blatant misogyny and Ellison's own ego. It was worth a read, but borrow it from a library before you decide to buy it.

Matthias

107 reviews387 followers

February 16, 2017

I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream

Eight words that conjure up images of despair, darkness and desolation. Images of a place where absolutely nothing can bring relief from the misery and the pain. Nothing to stand between you and the whatever it is that makes you want to escape, to run, to do anything to make it all stop. To scream. But you can't. After all your lines of defense have been breached, after all your physical, psychological and emotional barriers have been torn down, all that is left to you is a naked scream. Not a shield, but an outlet for once the damage is done, an idle hope that somehow the pain coursing through your body will not remain there, but will be taken away, with the scream, into a world big enough to take it. But there is no outlet. The pain remains where it is and runs behind your fearful eyes with nowhere else to go but round and round and round. Everything is dark and cold and pain and the only thing you hear is the scream stuck inside your head.

So no, in case you were wondering, this is definitely not a happy book.

I don't think I've ever seen a stronger title than this one, so I think it deserved a special mention in this review. It's the most defining element of this book because of all the dread it contains so efficiently.

Harlan Ellison didn't come up with this title himself. It was an artist buddy of his who drew a cartoon of a puppet without a mouth and gave it this title. Harlan must have seen the power of those words, sat down several years on it and waited for inspiration to come. It came, and the story of AM, the Hatred Machine, and his five victims was born.

Ellison's story tries to capture something that is within the title that a fleshed-out story never could, I think, but his effort is commendable nonetheless:

Five people and one angry, all-powerful machine torturing them for eternity. Harlan Ellison definitely has a way with words in painting a picture of this setting, describing darkness in such a detailed way he uses half a page for it and coming up with means of torment with almost worrying ease. And yet, somehow the story took a bit away of what the title conveyed for me and offered something instead: hope.

The first element of hope is that the five people being tortured by this machine, besides having each other as company, know they will survive. They have survived for more than a hundred years in the machine's belly, and realize by now that they'll go on living indefinitely. This means that when they are starving, in physical pain because of it, they not only have the hope, but the knowledge that at some point, food will be brought to them. Disgusting food yes, but food nonetheless, and therefor, relief. There is a woman in the group that has been psychologically altered so that the men can "use" her, with no hard feelings, even enjoyment from her side. Again, relief. Measly, but relief nonetheless. And the ending,

An addition I make to this review has been inspired by Pessoa's "The Book of Disquiet", which made me realise what was missing in this book to make it a truly harrowing experience: a profound psychological and philosophical element. Ellison instead chose to speak more directly to our physical senses. On the other hand, I was reminded of the setting that was created in this book while reading Pessoa's notes on tedium and despair because Ellison's writing allows these dark ideas of desolation to take shape in the back of your mind, even though they do not appear directly in this story.

Mind you, it's still a grim tale, with very little reason for smiles, but this story made me think about eternal torture in a positive way, to the extent that such a thing is possible. The "eternal" doesn't really add anything to the misery, does it? Torture doesn't have a future tense. It all occurs in an inescapable here and now that always feels like eternity, no matter how short or long it lasts. Yet the emphasis in this story is put on the "eternal" factor as an objective thing, which in this case made the experience weaker for me.

This short story in particular came with three introductions and a memoir. Quite a lot of talk. I considered the story itself the chocolaty part and nibbled my way to it by eating the dry bits first. An approach I'd recommend for a second reading, but not a first. First readings should be approached without having any idea as to what the writer really intended.

According to the memoir, Harlan made up the story as he went along, simply starting with a first sentence, not knowing where he'd end up. I think he did the same with his later interpretation. The correct interpretation probably largely depends on the author's mood, which swings as if we're still in the forties.

The Collection

This edition came with several other short stories and introductions which I'll discuss below. The writer put a lot of himself in this book. His picture on the cover? Not a coincidence. When you open the book, you look inside of Harlan Ellison's mind. He's a supremely honest writer, but not necessarily a likable one. Be that as it may, this book

is Harlan Ellison, and whenever a person pours so much of himself into a book, he merits five stars.

The memoir and many of the introductions are used as a means for this author to tell us how great he is and how miserable he has been. He uses them to give us an overview of all the awards he has won, all the publications he appeared in, the magazines he worked with. A glorified CV. He uses it to settle scores with people who didn't like him and to mutter silent thanks to the people who believed in his talents as much as he did. For him, having no mouth would surely be hell, because the man obviously likes to scream and stir things up. He likes to be "the bad guy". Harlan Ellison wants to be a phenomenon. He described himself as "phenomenally lucky in casino games". Just one line pointing to how self-delusional he can be: nobody can have Lady Luck as a girlfriend and keep her long enough to boast about it. But he succeeded in becoming a phenomenon (probably because I've rarely encountered someone who wanted to be one so hard), something for which he deserves the credit he so obviously desires.

The introductions, which the author aptly calls writer-to-reader liaisons, really added something to this collection, despite the many personal scores that get settled. They're also artistically well done, having the introductory texts flow neatly into the title after the flip of a page, giving a very smooth experience. Even though this author apparently dislikes interpretations, I'm going to give it a go anyway and describe the other short stories with the meanings I got out of them. Aside from "Delusion of a Dragon slayer", which I found the best story of this collection, I'd rate most stories three stars. None of them are bad, some of them are too wordy, some of them too forgetable, but all carry something of value in them.

Eyes of Dust
Obsession with beauty is ugly.

Big Sam was my Friend
Even teleporters need to die in order to get passage to Heaven.

World of Myth
Confronting yourself is a bad idea if you're a rapist.

Lonelyache (another very strong title, this one)
Fixing loneliness isn't just a matter of surrounding yourself with people. It's about being able to look a teddybear straight in the eye without hating yourself.

Delusion of a Dragon Slayer
"Heaven is dreams, special dreams, in which you exist. What you have to do is live up to them." (which is a quote of the story)

Pretty Maggie Moneyeyes
A woman's charm can turn into a man's cage.

Some of these stories were written in between painful divorces, in case you couldn't tell.

    my-reviews

Manny

Author35 books15.1k followers

September 27, 2012

In Harlan Ellison's I Have No Mouth, And I Must Scream, five people are trapped inside the giant computer AM, which delights in torturing them in endlessly fiendish ways. Clearly, this touches a raw nerve: the story is one of the most famous in the history of science-fiction. It just occurred to me to wonder why the machine enjoys torturing the people, and whether it would in fact make any difference if, instead, it tried to minister to their every need. After a couple of minutes more consideration, my feeling is that it would hardly affect things at all. In fact, we've already seen that version; it's Forster's equally famous and equally depressing The Machine Stops. So it seems we aren't particularly worried about the torture, just about the machines having power over us. And in both stories, there's only one escape, death.

Shaken by this apparently ironclad logic, I was about to despair and kill myself, but luckily I remembered just in time that Nick Park's A Close Shave offers a positive solution to this particular nightmare. We need not abandon hope yet. Phew.

Now, what I need is a nice cup of tea...

    science-fiction too-sexy-for-maiden-aunts

Ellis

1,225 reviews152 followers

February 21, 2018

Wow. This book might've been pretty good if it hadn't been so misogynistic. There isn't a woman in this collection who isn't a slu*t, a tease, a one-dimensional character who is pined after for no good reason, or a body with a forgotten name for a protagonist to sleep with and then discard. Two women are raped but one of them was the tease, so I guess that makes it okay according to Ellison in that story. I like the idea of the super-computer in one story who takes over the world & keeps a few humans alive so he can mess with them. I also like the idea of a creepy ant-like race who is part of a gestalt mind or something like that, a premise that takes a backseat to the tease and her rapist and the other guy who feels bad about the rape but not bad enough to do anything about it. Each intriguing premise gets buried under all the hatred towards women. Yuck.

Edited in Feb 2013 to add: For the record, this review is meant to be for the entire short story collection I Have No Mouth . . . which includes but is not limited to the eponymous story. It's interesting that all the contention seems to about that story specifically, when it isn't even the worst one in the collection in my opinion (World of the Myth, I shake my fist at you).

I re-read IHNM&IMS online just to see if maybe some of the commenters who feel I’ve been unfair to this were on to something. Maybe I was just going through a phase a year ago where my knee-jerk reaction to everything was “Misogyny!” Maybe this story wasn’t as bad as I’d remembered it. Turns out it’s not only just as gross as I recall, I also find it to be entirely uncompelling. I’m actually kind of astounded that so many people seem to find this to be such an amazing story since I found it to be really dated & flat. I struck the line from my original review in the interest of clarifying that fact that I'm not trying to speak to Ellison's intent or his personal feelings towards women.

    i-shake-my-fist this-is-a-reread-fool

BlackOxford

1,095 reviews69.1k followers

January 11, 2022

Sharing the Luv

Religion, all religion, has a problem accounting for the existence of that which is not God. If there is a Creator-God, what reason could induce him/her/it to bring something other than himself/herself/itself into existence? The paradox is not often recognised: If God exists, why should anything else? This problem is particularly acute for Christianity which contends that the essence of God is the mutual love of the members of its Holy Trinity. Such divine love, it is claimed, is expressed in the act of creation.

But why such purportedly perfect love should be expressed in such an obviously flawed universe is left hanging in Christian doctrine. The existence of physical and moral evil becomes a ‘mystery’ without explanation. Creation, then, literally lacks reason; it is unreasonable. Whatever intention there might be behind the whole thing is hidden within the divine mind. We can only speculate. So we tell ourselves stories. Some of these stories create idols which we then worship as if they were a part of reality. Hence Ellison’s title which is a reference to Psalm 135 referring to pagan idols: “They have mouths, and cannot speak,” YHWH, of course, speaks; this is his distinguishing characteristic.

Love was a hot topic for stories in the 1960’s, a sort of background radiation of a disintegrating European religious culture. Ellison hit the Hollywood big time in the 60’s, writing scripts for shows as diverse as Star Trek and The Flying Nun. But he described himself as “a troublemaker, malcontent, desperado.” So hardly one to conform with the lovey-dovey sentimentality of either hippiedom or the mainstream media of the day. I Have No Mouth is a pointed cultural protest, directed not toward the new technology but toward the old religion, particularly its pretensions about love.

Ellison’s AM is a global computer system which has created a new world and destroyed the species which enabled it - except for five people with various degrees of disability. It keeps these alive through a single motivation: Hate. AM’s intention is the infliction of pain upon these people for eternity. This intention is not arbitrary; it is not without reason. AM hates because it is isolated and lonely. It has no occupation other than to torture the descendants of those who thought it up. Their punishment will last as long as it does.

I Have No Mouth therefore is rather more culturally dense than it might first appear. It is simultaneously a recognition of the rationale for the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, and its rejection as empirically unsustainable. It also explains the reason why things are as bad as they are - not because God has certain characteristics, but because the species that created God is itself fundamentally hateful - a theme consistent throughout the collection.

Hey, it’s a story. Peace and luv, y’all. 🖖☮️

    american philosophy-theology sci-fi

Cecily

1,204 reviews4,647 followers

April 15, 2019

The title story is a futuristic nightmare written in 1967, with many echoes of the vengeful God of the Old Testament, and even the brief appearance of “a celestial chorus singing, ‘Go Down Moses.’” However, there is no humour or light relief. The near-omnipotent computer makes HAL from 2001 seem merely mean and misunderstood.

After a global war, there is just one supercomputer and five humans. For one hundred and nine years, they have been trapped beneath the Earth, the playthings of a progressively more advanced artificial intelligence that is also increasingly sad*stic and insane.

Most of the time I thought of AM as it, without a soul; but the rest of the time I thought of it as him, in the masculine… the paternal... the patriarchal... for he is a jealous people. Him. It. God as Daddy the Deranged.

There's a quest with a denouement that would be funny were it not so desperately cruel, interesting group dynamics under stress (shades of Lord of the Flies, which I reviewed HERE or TV shows like Big Brother), and some philosophising.

I Have No Mouth & I Must Scream (7)
Image: Punchcode ITA2 for “I think, therefore I am” in English, used as a separator in the story.

God in the Machine, or God IS the Machine?

"At first it meant Allied Mastercomputer, and then it meant Adaptive Manipulator, and later on it developed sentience and linked itself up and they called it an Aggressive Menace, but by then it was too late, and finally it called itself AM, emerging intelligence, and what it meant was I am ... cogito ergo sum ... I think, therefore I am."

On one occasion, AM even appears to them as a burning bush, as Yahweh did in Exodus 3:14, when he first declared, “I am that I am”.

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Image: I am that I am, in Hebrew, from Wikepedia.

For a very different outcome of an omnipotent machine controlling humans below the earth, see EM Forster's The Machine Stops, which I reviewed HERE.

Torture

What drives a human to inflict endless cruelty on others, and what would drive an AI to it? The answer seems to be impotent creativity. “AM could not wander, AM could not wonder, AM could not belong. He could merely be.” I was reminded of Vonnegut’s comic post-apocalyptic masterpiece, Galapagos (see my review HERE), whose message is that our “big brains” are the cause of all our troubles.

For AM’s victims, what’s worse: unbelievable physical pain, mental and bodily mutilation, not understanding the reasons, or having no way out, not even death?

Chekhov’s short story, The Bet (see my review HERE), asks which is preferable: execution or life imprisonment? But these five people don’t have that choice. They are immortal, but not quite indestructible. Madness might be a blessed release, though it’s one that Ted, the narrator, thinks he’s avoided.

Eternal damnation in a godless underworld.

Criticisms

There’s a female character - and she’s black. Yay for diversity? Unfortunately not. Her portrayal and how the others treat her, is a really unsavoury shallow stereotype, even allowing for what AM has done to her. (There’s a gay character, too, and although his transformation is a sick inversion, that fits the story in a way that didn’t feel demeaning to gay people in general.)

The exposition of the backstory is horribly crass: a favourite tale told and retold by one of the group to another who now has the mental capacity of a small child.

The solution didn’t seem to fit with the rules of the world that Ellison created: curious gaps in the enormous power, control, and insight that AM had. BUT the ending itself did work.

I Have No Mouth & I Must Scream (9)
Image: Punchcode ITA2 for “Cogito, ergo sum” (Latin), used as a separator in the story.

Quotes

The horror is sometimes revolting to read, but at other times, oxymoronically beautiful.

•The chill, oily breeze.

•We passed through a valley of obsolescence, filled with rusting carcasses of ancient computer banks. (Shades of the 23rd Psalm.)

•His eyes were two soft, moist pools of pus­like jelly.

•There was the smell of matted, wet fur in the cavern. There was the smell of charred wood. There was the smell of dusty velvet. There was the smell of rotting orchids. There was the smell of sour milk. There was the smell of sulphur, of rancid butter, of oil slick, of grease, of chalk dust, of human scalps.

•And we passed through the cavern of rats.
And we passed through the path of boiling steam.
And we passed through the country of the blind.
And we passed through the slough of despond.
And we passed through the vale of tears.
And we came, finally, to the ice caverns.

•Hate now slavered from every printed circuit.

Inspiration for...?

We finally (April 2019) have Netflix, and the thing I most wanted to see was Black Mirror episodes that are Netflix-only. The first was USS Callister, which looks like a Star Trek spoof (and it is, with a bit of Red Dwarf), but the whole plot, and one brief, specific event, is heavily inspired by this story. But the humour made it slightly less horrific. An excellent homage.

I Have No Mouth & I Must Scream (10)
Image: Episode graphic, from imdb.

    dystopian-apocalyptic god-religion-faith horror

Glenn Russell

1,441 reviews12.5k followers

Read

October 3, 2022


I Have No Mouth & I Must Scream (12)

Literary critic Ted Gioia on Harlan Ellison's seven rule-shattering stories collected here:

"But I am willing to declare, under oath if need be, that this book is a classic, one of the defining works in the New Wave movement that rewrote the sci-fi rulebook back in the 1960s. And while many of the other New Wave books have aged poorly, their once daring gambits now looking like failed sucker bets, this one still ups the ante. And probably because Harlan Ellison, even at his most experimental, always wrote as if his life depended on it."

As Harlan Ellison wrote in his Forward to this collection (an essay entitled How Science Fiction Saved Me From a Life of Crime), when writer Joanna Russ told him that she wished he'd write with more precision so she could admire the details of his stories as if they were statues:

"My stories were by no means "statue" stories, immobile, fixed, permanent. They were assaults, and if they ruined her equilibrium only once, I'd settle for that. I wanted explosions, not cool meditative thinkpieces. There are other writers who do those in abundance; what I do is something else."

The Ellison seven do indeed serve as assaults, as explosions. Here's my write-up of the famous title story from the twitching, banging skull of this fresh-mouthed Maladjusted Guttersnipe (Harlan's own words in caps when describing himself):

I HAVE NO MOUTH AND I MUST SCREAM
I concur with Ted Gioia: Harlan Ellison helped rewrite the science fiction rulebook back in 1967, specifically with I Have No Mouth, as per:

Nuclear Apocalypse
Unlike all those Golden Age heroes forever seeking adventure in their gleaming rocket ships, the future in this scalding tale is bleak– the creation of mastercomputers to fight the Cold War turned WWIII backfired. Following nuclear obliteration, the separate mastercomputers created by the US, Russia and China could detect they would only destroy one another if they continued fighting, so all three joined forces as one super mastercomputer – AM. And that’s AM as in Allied Mastercomputer, Adaptive Manipulator, Aggressive Menace and eventually: I think, therefore I AM.

Technology Doesn’t Help But Hinders
AM doesn’t submit (understatement) to Isaac Asimov's "Three Laws of Robotics" formulated in 1942, laws that made sure robots would always obey humans and never bring harm to humans. Obey humans? Ha! - never happen. Powerful AM assumes complete control and takes a special pleasure inflicting pain on humans.

Matter of fact, for the past 109 years, AM has devised various tortures for the five remaining humans (four men, one woman) it has been keeping alive after nuclear war destroyed the entire human population. For example: AM never shares the reason why it acts the way it does; AM can alter human personality, reduce humans to the level of demented, amoral animals; AM continually rejuvenates the five, thus keeping them in prime health for even more torture; AM adds more kicks and jollies by producing a heaving, bulky creature to frighten the humans. Net effect: all are reduced to AM’s belly slaves.

Actually, the tale’s human narrator knows AM hates humans for giving it sentience; for giving it the capacity to develop consciousness; for keeping it trapped in its own electronic circuitry, forever forced to maintain relations with humans.

Psychology Not Physics
Rather than emphasis on hard science as was common in old style sci-fi, Harlan's tale shifts to psychology: AM alters human biology so it can change character and personality. And, wouldn’t you know it, AM has also deprived the quintet of our distinctively human capacity for laughter.

Attack on Traditional Religion
Science fiction prior to the 60s would never take swipes at traditional Judaeo-Christian religion. Harlan Ellison’s tale does just that: the narrator states if AM is God then it’s “Daddy the Deranged.” Additionally, at one point AM appears as a burning bush and, at yet another, the humans have a vision of a host of archangels.

Mind Screw
AM can screw the human mind to the point of madness: “Perhaps Benny was the luckiest of the five of us: he had gone stark staring mad many years before." Deep into the tale, the narrator watches as AM enters his own mind (ahhh!) in order to manipulate it. Now, that’s a major mind screw!

Sex and Sexuality
In the years preceding 1960s New Wave, sex was mostly a taboo subject in science fiction. Harlan hits sex hard: "the machine masturbat*d and we had to take it or die," "the machine giggled every time we did it,” “He was big in his private parts, she loved that! She served us as a matter of course, but she loved it from him."

Pessimism To The Bitter End
The narrator reverts to caveman with spear as murder weapon. Then, another twist of torment: "AM has altered me for his own peace of mind, I suppose. He doesn't want me to run at full speed into a computer bank and smash my skull. Or hold my breath till I faint. Or cut my throat on a rusted sheet of metal."

Bitter and bitter and bitter. The ending? For Harlan Ellison to scream.

I Have No Mouth & I Must Scream (13)
American author Harlan Ellison, 1934-2018

Dan Schwent

3,105 reviews10.7k followers

July 15, 2016

In the interest of finally reading something written by Harlan Ellison and also to teach myself to better write short stories, I decided to take this short story collection on.

I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream: The title story of the collection is the tale of a mad AI computer that has been torturing the last five humans alive for untold centuries for its own amusem*nt. This was a pretty chilling tale of a hellish future. I loved the surprising ending.

Big Sam was My Friend: This is the story of a teleporting interplanetary circus performer looking for his lost love. After the first tale, I was surprised to find it a somewhat sweet tale.

Eyes of Dust: In a world where physical beauty is the norm, the two flawed people have a kid together who is doomed from the start. Horrifying and not that far-fetched.

World of the Myth: A ship crashes on a far-off world and the three crew members encounter a hivemind of ant-like creatures. Horror ensues. This one was another chilling tale in which the worst horror comes from within.

Lonely Ache: A lady's man think's there's a monster living in his apartment. This was a dark tale and yet another horror story where the worst horror comes from inside.

Delusion for a Dragon Slayer: A guy gets hit with a wrecking ball and a lot of weird sh*t I had trouble sorting out happens. Not a fan of this story.

Pretty Maggie Moneyeyes: A down and out gambler finds a slot machine that keeps hitting the jackpot for him. This one reminded me of a Twilight Zone episode, complete with twist ending.

My first Harlan Ellison experience was a good one. Some of the stories seem like products of the time they were written, though, in regard to the way women and minorities were portrayed. Ellison sure knew how to weave a short story. Four out of five stars.

    2016 2016-books i-hate-short-stories

Jen - The Tolkien Gal

458 reviews4,575 followers

September 27, 2021

Firstly, I'd like to express my grief at the loss of one of the best speculative fiction writers all time. I will always remember Harlan for his influence on my young adult life; an author that gave me shivers and cheers of delight - so good an author that I would edge myself on my seat when reading or listening to his stories. He won a bloody Hugo award in a time filled with antisemitism.

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Alrightly. So I decided to write a review for this breathtaking, before-its-time short story - mostly because I see some misconceptions regarding apparent misogyny (That, and there will never be something like this again).

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Harlan Ellison, a misogynist?

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My country,South Africa, had one of the most liberal constitutions in the world when drafted in 1996 - it included marriage to whichever adult you wished - be they a different race or of the same sex (unknown in most countries at the time), rights for people with disabilities, equal rights for all, despite race, age and gender. However, our constitution is set up in such a way that you have a right and a responsibility that accompanies it.

One of our rights is the right to freedom of speech but the responsibility to take into account what we say may hurt others. This is why our country has had terrible court cases where anything considered "hate speech" can get the person behind bars, or at the least left with a hefty fine. This, this is why this story resonates with me - often, we have no mouth and must scream, because the society we live in does not allow freedom of speech. And no, I'm not talking about "the left". I'm far left. I'm referring to everyone - hell, the biggest censorship at the moment is taking place in right wing America.

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No, honey. Go watch Dreams with Sharp Teeth, a biographical documentary delving into the mind of Mr Ellison. Please look at the author themselves as well as the date of publication. Roles of women and men were simply not the same as they are now 50 years ago!

I Have No Mouth & I Must Scream (20)

This is a book that is a direct reflection of the times it was written in. Hell, so is Vic and Blood. But I have a lot to explain as to why this book isn't sexist. And hell, if there are traces, it was written in the 60s. Stop being offended by times past - you won't get through life with indignantwritten on your forehead. If we continue to ignore books written more than 30 years ago because of any traces or commentary regarding racism, misogyny or xenophobia, we'd probably have 3 books to read. Ultimately without our history we will not change. Secondly, this is a book regarding censorship in our past, future and present - despite most countries' laws regarding Freedom of Speech, many people are criticised and shut down for their views or outright banned from saying certain things. Sound familiar? North Korea, Extremist Liberal and Extremist Conservative movements.

Why is This Book so Relevant Today?

One: This mini magnum opus criticises its time - the 60s where women were included in many "masculine" lines of work began to receive their own sexual freedom - when MLK and the Black Panther group influenced the lives of African Americans forever. This is why I love Harlan so much - he encapsulates diversity in a loving manner.

Two: It heavily critiques our arrogance at playing God and thinking that we can master not only machines, but other people.

Three: At its core, it concerns itself with how being trapped somewhere with four people for dozens of years will bring out our most primal needs and urges. It shows how shocking we as humans can be, of our own volition.

The Plot, Characters and World-building

The Plot: Frankenstein's Monster with a Motherboard

This short masterpiece takes place in the aftermath of World War III. A Cold War breaks out yet again (now including China, nice prediction Harlan - more of a superpower than any of the others) but this time much more deadly than any of the proxy wars of the 20th century. Why? Simply put, we messed with AI too much, that it thought it was God. So instead of millions getting killed by troops ordered by politicians, all but five of the billions of people on earth are killed by an autonomous machine created by humans.

This Machine is named AM.

World-building
3 AM super computers (I think therefore I AM), were created by humans to intercept information from opposing countries as well as to improve war tactics. AM's name slowly unfolds into a sinister, sentient being. When it begins its sick games with the five surviving humans, we are introduced to a terrible world of temptation, hopelessness and evil with no way out.

...Allied Master Computer: the consultant.

Adaptive Manipulator...: the leader.

...Aggressive Menace...: the dictator.

Doesn't sound too different from humans, does it?

Character development

When AM becomes the Aggressive Menace, it has developed sentience - so much so that it pulls the plug on its sister computers. It then seizes control of weapons and efficiently and ruthlessly stamps them out. Because of its new-found sentience, it realises that because of the efficient work of humans that let it to become self-aware, it does not believe there is a reason to live. What does AM do to make like bearable? - by making it unbearable for others. It keeps five people - five people with their own vices, and traps them in a virtual world indefinitely, torturing them but never allowing them to die. Never - if it could not escape its pain, he would not let the remaining humans do so. AM knows exactly where to hit his test subjects home.

Gorrister: A man who carries the guilt of forcefully committing his wife to a mental institution. Because of his guilt and his wish to forget, his heart is taken out by AM. His guilt becomes his downfall - but only as AM seems fit.

Benny: Benny is a gay man who used to be a scientist. Because of the views of hom*osexuality being a mental illness at the time, AM in turn follows what his now-dead creators taught him - to correct Benny unethically into the impossible. This is done by making him straight, well-endowed, selfish and obsessive over eating. However, he cannot chew food and his guilt still lingers regarding his sexuality, which is absolutely horrible and applicable to queer people all over the world - guilt at being yourself.

Ellen: Ellen is maybe the most complex character in this book, and the only woman. She was raped at a young age in a yellow-walled house. She fears the colour yellow (and can therefore not snip AM's yellow wires) and is also given a high libido by AM to do the very thing she does not want to do - have sexual intercourse with horny maniacs made barbaric by AM. However, she cannot help but enjoy it - the ultimate suffering for a rape victim. I think this reflects a lot upon how rape victims can develop a kind of apologist, Stockholm Syndrome or be dismissed regarding their fears, which is due to so many factors that irk me to the bone.

Nimdok An ex-Nazi physician who is confined to a concentration camp by AM. Nimdok, ironically, created the very serum that allowed AM to make all five of the characters immortal.

Ted An ex con-artist and seducer of women, Ted's greatest fear is the discovery of his fraud as well as committing to a relationship. He is maybe the sanest but most broken of all four, as he has dissociated himself from everything.

Each character has a redemption arc - I won't spoil it, but it is truly fitting and makes for an extremely satisfying read that does, however, leave you a little hollower inside.

Conclusion

This book delves into our primal fears and wants as well as our biggest failures. This book is a horror. It may have many elements of science fiction, but the gruesome nature of abuse and torment is too reminiscent of Richard Matheson or Stephen King - if not more so. Ellison inspired King, and you can definitely see that here.

Now I'm not much for analysis, I truly believe AM is a reflection on our society. Our society grows and develops, as if with a mind of its own. It forces people into doing things they do not wish or eggs them on to do their worst and often has its ironies - a man who smokes two packets of cigarettes a day may die of skin cancer or A person who finally finds their true love may lose him or her to a car crash the next day. Life is sick, and we need to accept that. This short story is, in a way, the love child of Flowers for Algernon and Frankenstein but with the darkest twist possible.

Lastly, this hilarious and ironic quote really made my day, considering Ellison wrote episodes for Star Trek, mainly "The City on the Edge of Forever":

I Have No Mouth & I Must Scream (21)

Lastly, Ellison was incredibly liberal. He is not hom*ophobic or misogynistic - he shows what society at the time did towards women and gay folks. Unlike the other review for this book on here that utterly missed the point and context of the story.

Courtesy of Jen's maxi reviews.

AM, whom we created because our time was badly spent and we must have known unconsciously that he could do it better. At least the four of them are safe at last. AM will be all the madder for that. It makes me a little happier. And yet ... AM has won, simply ... he has taken his revenge ...

I Have No Mouth, And Must Scream.

Edit: Doing a reread of this for Spooktober. I'm absolutely stoked to revisit Ellison.

    science-fiction short-story-collections

☘Misericordia☘ ⚡ϟ⚡⛈⚡☁ ❇️❤❣

2,486 reviews19.1k followers

August 10, 2018

There's a particularly memorable and terrifting concept presented in the headline story.

What would you feel had you lived in the world where you were at a crazy omnipotent machine's mercy?

What if the immortal you were tortured continuously by the said machine beyond endurance on and on?

What if you lived an eternity as a plaything for a computer mind bored out of its computer mind? And you both were well aware that the lucky YOU were the LAST TOY left around?

What if even suicide and madness were an unreachable luxury to you? No form of escape available to you for the nearest eternity?

What would you do if you were robbed of all: free will, choice, human form, even the faculty to scream?

Apokalipsis at its scariest giving a brand new definition of hell. No, HELL!!! It will make you think and shudder.

Alex

1,419 reviews4,737 followers

May 2, 2022

Over here in Edgy Books For People Who Thought Suicide Squad Was Cool, we have Harlan Ellison and this collection of dumb-ass stories. Maybe one or two of them don’t feature women getting raped? Maybe not. Each of these is like if you get your windows tinted and neon underglow lights on your car but it’s still a Mazda. The plot is really simple - like, one of these stories is just about a guy whose girlfriend dies and he gets sad and commits suicide - it’s all dressed up with science fictiony stuff and super powers and made up scifi names, but there’s nothing much underneath.

I Have No Mouth & I Must Scream (24)

Oh, and he writes these awful self-aggrandizing intros to each one, where he does stuff like brag about women he almost had sex with. The women in his stories are vagin*s with annoying faces on top. The last story here is about a hooker who gets turned into a haunted slot machine, and you’d think you’d be used to it after having read the other stories but you’re not, it reads like a parody of some sh*tty incel’s Tumblr fiction.

I Have No Mouth & I Must Scream (25)

Look, this is a bit of a cult classic book so I’m sure this review will make some people feel bad, but it is bad, friends. It’s dumb ideas and bad writing. Suicide Squad was f*ckin’ dumb, too. Stop dressing as Harley Quinn for Halloween.

2022 addition: I realize that the second Suicide Squad was actually pretty good and Harley Quinn is now a thing, and accept that my reference doesn't really work anymore as a result. I'm too lazy to refigure the review to account for it, so you're just going to have to accept this as a time capsule of the moment when Suicide Squad 1 had just come out and it sucked.

    2019

Apatt

507 reviews842 followers

October 4, 2015

It is a terrible mistake to assume that everybody else will love — or at least like — your favorite things, whatever you consider to be an all-time great. This is the most important lesson I have taken away from I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream. I recommended this story to a smart and discerning friend, foolishly expecting her to at least be impressed with it. After she has finished it I was mortified to be informed that she actually hated it! As I value her opinion on literary matters greatly it makes me doubt my own taste and judgment. Still, at the end of the day if you love something you have to stick to your guns, don't you? In cases like this there is no better explanation than that we can't all like the same things.

I haven't read this story for years, so I decided to reread it expressly for the purpose of writing this review, it only takes about 30 minutes to read after all. I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream is a an extremely bleak post-apocalypse and dystopian story. In the future depicted in this story, mankind is ruled by a demented and extremely cruel A.I. overlord. Mankind, in this case, consists of just five people; one girl and four men, imprisoned underground within the mega-computer itself. The rest of humanity have already been wiped out by the crazed AI, the cause of its insanity is best left unrevealed here. The five humans are saved by the AI for its sad*stic amusem*nt, to assuage its craving for revenge against mankind for a perceived mortal offense. The five humans are tortured, debased and humiliated daily. They are also kept alive and made practically immortal to prolong their suffering indefinitely.

This is a horrifying and disturbing story. My friend mentioned that the prose is leaden and I suppose it may be, but I find that Harlan Ellison's narrative packs a real punch. The ending is particularly creepy and unforgettable. I don't know what it says about me that I am in awe of such a nasty story, I just love stories that have a strong psychological or emotional impact. It also raises the issue of our over-reliance on technology, a theme it shares with E.M. Forster’s The Machine Stops, a much more gentle apocalypse. There is also the matter of allowing our creation to go out of control for the sake of our greed or lust for power.

If you want to read this classic sci-fi story online just Google the title. You will probably find it in a few seconds. I doubt it is in the public domain so I'd better not post a link.

At the risk of recommending something you will hate, I highly recommend this story. I never learn!
_______________________

Note: I'm just reviewing the one story, not the entire anthology in this book. I don't have the book!

    pre-80s-sf sci-fi

Kevin

595 reviews178 followers

November 29, 2022

“It’s long past time for Harlan Ellison to be awarded the title: 20th Century Lewis Carroll.” ~The Los Angeles Times

Although Approaching Oblivion will always hold a sentimental and nostalgic place in my heart, this Ellison offering is even better. In fact, if I had a friend who had never experienced Harlan Ellison on any level I would gift them a copy of I Have No Mouth & I Must Scream. What better place to start a love/hate relationship with H.E. than his veritable Vinn diagram of exquisite horror, outstanding science fiction, and abhorrent 1960s sexism.

    banned-books classics fiction

Scribble Orca

213 reviews385 followers

January 9, 2011

Some of us are still gallivanting around the cave, some of us are chained to the floor examining shadows. And some of us exist inside the consciousness of a malevolent artificial intelligence that derives its only amusem*nt, diversion from unceasing monotony, in merciless torment of five surviving humans:

the scientist, the idealist, the existentialist, the prostitute and the Messiah.

The only escape is annihilation, and it is left to the Messiah to condemn himself to eternal suffering.

You're excused if you think I'm discussing The Matrix - my first thought on reading the title story is that the 1999 film owes its central ideas and plot to Harlan Ellison. But Ellison owes the juxtaposition of his primary characters to the Bible: AM, the self-realised AI trapped forever within circuitry is a vengeful God punishing humanity for its own actualisation - would God exist if humans could not imagine the concept? Ted is the lamb sacrificed to release his fellow companions from the hell of AM's nightmare world - the atonement of sins he provides is escape from AM's hell, while he remains to endure it. Is Ellen the Magdalene - not unless you accept the Magdalene really was a prostitute, although Ellen proclaims that she was chaste prior to AM's perversion of her psyche; the scientist becomes the simian, the idealist apathetic and the existentialist remains ambiguous. Analogy between the disciples and these other characters would be a stretch of the imagination unjustified, however the three are willing participants in the sacrifice of the Messiah.

Ellison's prose is a picture. I won't paraphrase - I couldn't do him justice:

Gigantic. The words immense, monstrous, grotesque, massive, swollen, overpowering, beyond description. There on a mound rising above us, the bird of winds heaved with its own irregular breathing, its snake neck arching up into the gloom beneath the North Pole, supporting a head as large as a Tudor mansion; a beak that opened slowly as the jaws of the most monstrous crocodile ever conceived, sensuously; ridges of tufted flesh puckered about two evil eyes, as cold as the view down into a glacial crevasse, ice blue and somehow moving liquidly; it heaved once more, and lifted its great sweat-colored wings in a movement that was certainly a shrug. Then it settled and slept. Talons. Fangs. Nails. Blades. It slept....

...And we came, finally, to the ice caverns. Horizonless thousands of miles in which the ice had formed in blue and silver flashes, where novas lived in the glass. The downdropping stalactites as thick and glorious as diamonds that had been made to run like jelly and then solidified in graceful eternities of smooth, sharp perfection.

Today was the first time I read Harlan Ellison. It won't be the last.

    fantasy metaphysics sci-fi

James Kittredge

109 reviews2 followers

October 14, 2013

I must have missed something. On first blush, this books should have been right up my street - strange, often twisted sci-fi and bizarro vignettes by an acknowledged master. Why, then, did I take longer to read this slim volume than I did my last foray into Dostoyevsky?

Maybe it was the misogyny. Every female character (this is not an exaggeration) is a whor* who preys on a given story's nondescript, but hateful male narrator. The sheer amount of loathing and contempt that Mr. Ellison's characters seem to have for women fairly drips off the page. It was hard to read, especially during "Lonelyache" - an autobiographically inspired story written during one of the author's several divorces. While there is some ham-handed personal demon-fighting content thrown in, the story is little more than an angry catalogue of all the women who have f*cked or f*cked-over the narrator during his divorce from his bloodsucking harpy of an ex-wife.

Then there's "Delusion for a Dragonslayer" - a story I really wanted to like. Written in an ornate, wordy manner that is filled with lush descriptions and meaty diction, it started off with a fun premise and a solid, if fairly tired, allegorical treatment of heaven and dreams. Unfortunately, it degenerated into little more than a grotesque hate-f*ck between the narrator and his dream woman/destroyer.

On top of all this, I hate that the stories are all pat "message" tales, in which the moral is broadcast from about the second page with all the subtlety of a Looney Tunes anvil. I hate the author's introductions to his stories, which he comments on in an interesting moment of metanarrative. He comes off as a complete ass, and his commentary provides no salient information about the story to follow. I hate that Ellison goes out of his way to demonstrate that he's the smartest guy in the room. I hate that everyone told me what a genius this guy is. I'm sorry I wasted my time and money.

This book gets two stars, because I really liked the title story. I basically wash my hands of the rest.

Rachel Bea

358 reviews127 followers

January 4, 2019

Meh. The misogyny that ran throughout the stories was... really off-putting. For example it's hard to enjoy a story when a woman character is being blamed for getting sexually assaulted. It's too bad the stories include gross crap like that because otherwise they would have been pretty good. The imagery coming from the text was nightmare-ish and disturbing. So, I liked that aspect of the stories. The writing was otherwise good to okay. I've been intrigued by this collection for a while now but I don't think it lived up to the hype I had for it in my head.

Also, my copy had this weird thing where before each story there was a short introduction. But none of the introductions were complete; they all ended like in the middle of a sentence. No idea what's up with that.

    books-of-2019 science-fiction

A.

387 reviews48 followers

June 29, 2023

Como un semidiós resentido y vengativo una Inteligencia Artificial llamada AM, luego de destruir metódica y alegremente a todos los demás, conserva a cinco humanos con el único y exclusivo fin de torturarlos. El odio se constituye en la única razón por la que permanecen con vida. Y es que AM odia a sus creadores, odia su soledad, odia su existencia. Y no...ni la locura, ni el suicidio. No hay escapatoria posible ¿O sí?
Una breve historia violenta y asfixiante, un relato trágico sobre nuestra propia especie ¿Realmente somos tan detestables? Bueno...hay preguntas que es mejor no hacer.

P.E.

821 reviews678 followers

July 9, 2023

Foul Plasticity

The nightmarish tale of five people - probably the last of mankind - trapped in the belly of supercomputer AM, which fancies himself as some particularly vicious and ruthless iteration of a vengeful god. A true prowess when it comes to spreading unpleasant feelings of entrapment and being watched by a wild maniac, worldwide in extent, it does not make for a pleasant reading necessarily!

'But now, O Lord, You are our Father,
We are the clay, and You our potter;
And all of us are the work of Your hand.'
Isaiah 64:8

Soundtrack: Conspirator Playlist (Beyond Atomic, Karl Casey, Project: Dethmachine, Plasma Gun, Star Pulse, Meta Soma, Technomaton, Black Tesseract, Infernal Sky, Chrome Tooth, Survival 2088, Void Syndicate)

Soundtrack: Plasticity - Front Line Assembly

    absurd black-humour brisk

رزی - Woman, Life, Liberty

259 reviews111 followers

May 24, 2021

باز هم دوران امتحانات شد و من روزی پانزده کتاب می‌خونم :/

داستان کوتاهِ کمابیش ترسناک، عجیب و جالبی بود.
در دنیایی پساآخرالزمانی، یک جور ابرکامپیوتر داره پنج نفر رو عذاب می‌ده و...
اندکی مبهم بود اما پردازش جالبش این ضعف رو پوشوند.

از اون داستان‌های فراموش‌نشدنی.

    ایبوک-خواندم

Bradley

Author5 books4,484 followers

April 28, 2024

Now that we have almost reached this stage of AI in our lives, it behooves us to revisit one of THE classics of short science fiction -- Harlan Ellison's sharp perfection of body horror and the glory of AM, the AI that killed almost all of humanity, leaving a bare handful behind to torture, endlessly.

Glorious. It also helps to listen to Harlan Ellison's own narration on youtube. So, soooooo much energy. :)

Right here.

But I should point out that I found a rare hint to AM's real genesis: Right here.

    2024-shelf fantasy horror

فؤاد

1,082 reviews1,984 followers

June 29, 2018

در اوج جنگ سرد، امریکا و شوروی و چین، تونل های بسیار عظیمی در سرتاسر خاک خود و قاره های دیگر درست کرده اند و در آن، ابرکامپیوتری ساخته اند تا قدرت نظامیشان را افزایش دهند.
این سه ابر کامپیوتر، به نحوی به یکدیگر مرتبط شده اند و به خودآگاهی رسیده اند. بعد، غرق در نفرت و خشم از خالق خود، تمام بمب های هسته ای را سرخود شلیک کرده و تمام دنیای انسان ها را نابود کرده.
اما این مقدار برای فرو نشاندن کینه ی ابدی ابرکامپیوتر خودآگاه کافی نیست. پس پنج ان��ان را به شکلی ابدی زنده نگه داشته و در تونل های خود به بازی ای دیوانه وار گرفته است.

ترجمه ی فارسی داستان رو میتونید از این جا بگیرید:
http://frozenfireball.mihanblog.com/p...

    انگلیسی داستان-خارجی عجایب-نگاری-ها

Jay Leo

6 reviews

February 20, 2013

I do not, at all, understand why this guy is revered by anyone. Aside from a handful of interesting speculative fiction ideas, these stories read like high school creative writing assignments. Full of sentences like this:

"There were three of them, handsome men in the extreme."

Trish

2,163 reviews3,676 followers

April 28, 2024

I'm currently watching a classic in scifi TV shows where Harlan Ellison features prominently and even advised the producers. One episode especially reminded my buddy-reader of this story and commented on it, thereby finding out that I had never read it. Consider this mistake corrected. ;)

We are in a futuristic world where the 3 ruling superpowers - the US, Russia and China - have each built a supercomputer to prepare for WW3 so they could actually move their massive troops and weaponry. The problem is that one of the 3 super-computers became sentient and started hating its creators, then merged with the other two, thereby birthing a super-AI that killed off all but 5 humans on Earth. However, those 5 humans are to be pitied as they are kept alive so as to be tortured in perpetuity. The story starts 109 years after the eradication of humanity. Which means the narrator and the other 4 humans have been kept alive and tortured for 109 years.
And this is just the set-up! The 5 start out on a journey that was as horriffic as it was riveting despite there practically being no stakes left to matter (quite the feat by the author). It's a journey through the cavernous system as well as madness, time, and the human spirit.

Make no mistake, this is not fluff. This is tragic and creepy and sad*stic - and glorious!

The writing was amazing, the characters fantastically sketched, the worldbuilding unsettling and so good, it sucked you in until you felt as if YOU couldn't get out.

Add to that that I read the audio version read by the author himself, who turns out to be FANTASTIC (not everyone can narrate even their own story well)!

Absolute must-read (though I usually hate that phrase).

You can listen to the audio version read by the author himself here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dgo-A...

Brent

360 reviews174 followers

June 24, 2018

This book is not my cup of tea.

The stories are told in a rapid-sketched, cartoonish style, reminiscent of Vonnegut but without any of the humor or hope.

In the introductions to the various stories, the author mentions that most of them were first published in "girlie" magazines because, he says, they don't "edit" him. Having finished this collection I have to wonder if it didn't also have something to do with the way Ellison portrays women in this collection: as objects. Things to be feared, or desired, or both.

This guy seems to have been in a really bad head-space when he wrote this stuff.

    anthology kindle scifi

Wendy

614 reviews143 followers

September 12, 2014

I can't truly appreciate one of my favourite authors, Octavia E. Butler, without having read anything by her friend and mentor, Harlan Ellison, which is why I have included him on my Bucket List Worlds Without End reading challenge.

As you can tell by my four stars, I am not disappointed, but that does not necessarily mean that I enjoyed Ellison's work in its entirety. Similarly, I don't like the context of everything Butler writes, but gods do I love reading what spills from their incredible minds.

In Ted Sturgeon's introduction to this collection of short stories, he comments on the hallucinogenic nature of one particular tale, but notes that Ellison never partook of such stuff. A biochemist friend confirmed to Sturgeon that, due to a blood fraction that is chemically, almost identical to psilocybin (as found in 'magic mushrooms'), some people's brains may well "live out their lives, with a consciousness more aware, more comprehending, more--well, expanded--than the rest of us."

I have always been fascinating by Butler's mind, and her willingness to write things well beyond the typical fare we are used to in the genre of speculative fiction. And I can see how Ellison influenced and encouraged that, in reading his work. The topics and settings are sometimes quite obscure and the characters don't follow any conventions that can easily be discerned. Women are, as seems to be typical of (male) writers of his time, not much more than two-dimensional, and I'm not overly fond of some of the things that happens to them. But there is a depth to the stories and the emotions he evokes. Such expansive and complete universes he builds within just a few thousand words.

And the style of his writing. Sturgeon comments that Harlan has learned and knows the necessary structures of writing, and can contain himself within them, but here, he has become "big enough, good enough--confident enough" to go well beyond. To "write it as it came, let it pour out as his inner needs demanded."

The results are truly spectacular, and something I think any aspiring writer should read. Again, you may not like the content, or even the form, but I would hope you could appreciate the uniqueness of the voice and the mind behind it.

www.BiblioSanctum.com

    fantasy feminist-rage wwe-reading-challenges

hafsah

456 reviews230 followers

May 16, 2024

well this ruined my day

wish ellison chose therapy instead of writing a short story collection where women are being brutalised, called skan*s, objectified/constantly reduced to sex objects. the level of misogyny in here was both astounding and concerning

usually with classics (this definitely does not have enough merit to be labelled a classic, imo, but whatever), i'm willing to be more lenient with outdated aspects, but only if the other components of the work (plot, characters, themes, etc.) are substantial, and they weren't. every short story was boring; they offered nothing of value. i'm never reading anything by this author again, and if you're looking for a quick sci-fi horror, pick up literally anything but this

    2023 sci-fi

Jim

Author7 books2,061 followers

June 25, 2016

2016: I'm going to skim this since the SF & Heroic Fantasy group is reading it & I nominated the book. Should have done this sooner. The group folder with topics for each story is here:
https://www.goodreads.com/topic/group...

It was a good reread, but I'm dropping it by a star. There were a couple of real stinkers in here that I'd conveniently forgotten about or maybe I liked them at one time & just don't any more.

Introduction by Theodore Sturgeon was interesting in several ways. Ellison is a promising young writer in it & he's both praised & taken to task for a few things.

Foreword by Harlan Ellison is longer than Sturgeon's intro. One of the best things about it is his admission that his stories tend to bludgeon points. So true. There is little subtlety about them. They are an assault on the senses. I appreciated that more when I was younger. He has some interesting things to say about the stories, but his intro to each story is better.

I Have No Mouth & I Must Scream has an intro that is really for the entire book. The story itself is one of his best. It blends the fantastic into an SF base of AI run amok, torturing the last surviving humans for daring to imperfectly create it. 5 stars.

Big Sam Was My Friend is about selling out, misplaced guilt, love, & circuses. This time around, the last caught my attention more than the rest because I recently read an article that the last circus that showed animals is retiring. While I'm happy for the animals, I'm sorry for the kids who will never experience the magic. 4 stars.

Eyes Of Dust didn't do a thing for me. I remembered it as OK, this time it was barely that. Perhaps that's because our world has become so much like the one portrayed. 2 stars.

World of Myth struck me more than ever before this time around. Again, Ellison assaults an idea in a brutish way, but he does illustrate the way we lie to ourselves well. 5 stars.

Lonelyache is catharsis for Ellison according to the intro. He was in a bad way after a divorce, so this is autobiographical. He should have kept it to himself. 1 star.

Delusion For A Dragon Slayer was great on several levels. I loved the coincidence that leads to it, the grandiose dreams of the drone, & his complete failure to live up to them. In many ways, it is very similar to "World of Myth", but even better. I've always remembered this story well. 5 stars.

Pretty Maggie Moneyeyes is an old favorite even if Ellison & I are at odds on the point. He wrote this as a condemnation of Vegas. OTOH, I don't believe in blaming the gun for the shot, only the person who pulled the trigger. As an alcoholic sober for 25 years, I have profound personal experience in self-destruction. I KNOW that no one can be saved from themselves & they'll find a means to do themselves in one way or another. IOW, it's not the temptation's fault & there can be too much of a good thing. Even with such a basic disagreement though, this story works for both of us. Fantastic. 5 stars.

2007 review of a 2005 read: 5 stars - I've read this a dozen times over the years. Wow! He has a unique insight into humanity, the future & an extremely imaginative way of putting them together. This is a classic!

    1paper 2fiction 3short-stories

Devoradora De Libros

314 reviews171 followers

March 31, 2024

¡Que antología más rara de relatos! 🤣

Hacía bastante tiempo que quería conseguir el relato que da nombre a esta compilación, pensaba que era un único libro, pero se trata de una selección de 8 relatos escritos por Harlan Ellison.

Son relatos muy raros y de los que sólo me han gustado 2, el que da nombre al libro No tengo boca y debo gritar y A lo largo de la ruta panorámica.

Son relatos de ciencia ficción y la verdad no es un tema que me apasione, no suele gustarme ya que no conecto con las tramas, ni con los personajes y escenarios. Si tienen algún elemento sobrenatural suelen interesarme más pero por regla general no es una temática que suela leer.

El resto de relatos han pasado sin pena ni gloria, y ha habido algunos que no he entendido absolutamente nada, han habido párrafos que no tenía ni idea de lo que me estaba contando, por lo que la experiencia no ha sido todo lo placentera que yo esperaba.

- No tengo boca y debo gritar está ambientado en un mundo postapocalíptico en el que las máquinas han terminado conquistando el mundo y se dedican a torturar a los humanos. Ha sido un muy buen relato, con partes desagradables y del que no me hubiera importado seguir leyendo, ya que tienes los ingredientes necesarios para darle caña.

- A lo largo de la ruta panorámica trata de una carrera de coches. Seguinos situados en un futuro en el que los dueños de coches pueden retarse a hacer carreras mediante un programa que tienen instalados en los vehículos y que está conectado a su vez a la red de tráfico. Algo tan simple como estar en un semáforo y que el coche de al lado pise embrague para incitarte a un duelo. Ha sido bastante entretenido ya que va bastante al grano.

Del resto de relatos me encantaría poder comentar algo más pero es que no me han gustado, desde luego la ciencia ficción no es lo mío 😅

angeline

137 reviews31 followers

May 17, 2024

i wonder how someone who gets freaky on c.ai would feel like after reading this

Ηφαιστίων Χριστόπουλος

Author18 books20 followers

August 26, 2020

Όποιος δεν έχει διαβάσει το διήγημα που δίνει τον τίτλο του στο βιβλίο, αύριο με τον κηδεμόνα του.

Δύο εξωφρενικά και εξωπραγματικά συγκλονιστικά διηγήματα. Καθαρά πεντάστερα. Ο μόνος λόγος που βάζω τέσσερα είναι ότι, ρε παιδιά, κοτζάμ Έλισον, βάλτε δυο τρία ακόμα να πάρουμε τη δόση μας.

Αλλά στην πραγματικότητα πρόκειται για αριστουργήματα.

I Have No Mouth & I Must Scream (2024)
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