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Ellison Wonderland by Harlan Ellison
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Ellison Wonderland (1962)

by Harlan Ellison

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Showing 5 of 5
The review of this particular collection really has to start with a review of the specific edition. In this case, it is the recently re-released collection of these relatively early Ellison stories. What makes this collection stand out – why you want this edition even if you already have the collected works – is the introduction.

Ellison’s introductions tend to be works of art in and of themselves. They are stand-alone essays that speak more about the author than they do about the works. They are crafted with the same skill and care as the stories/essays/etc. To be honest, a book could probably be made that was nothing but the introductions to his other books – a very good, very profound collection.

In this case, we have been given almost 130 pages of introduction. (I have read collections by other authors that are shorter than this introduction.) It is Ellison being Ellison. If you have been lucky enough to attend one of his lectures/speeches/talks/whatever you want to call them, then you will know what to expect. There are stories here I have heard hints of, there are stories hear I think I may have heard before, and there are stories here that I never had an inkling of. But they are all good stories (true stories) told by a master storyteller. The introduction is a raconteur spinning his tales – telling stories that help paint a picture. In this case, it is the picture of the artist himself. A reflection on a life long and well lived.

Ellison is probably a hard man to be friends with, and yet this introduction makes me long to be that friend.

If the introduction was all you got, the book would be worth it.

But there are the stories, and they are vintage Ellison. Okay, they are really vintage Ellison in that they are from the 50s and 60s. What we have here is a collection of stories from when the author had already learned his craft, but was beginning to flex his muscles toward doing more.

As Josh Olson notes in the Afterword “These are early stories, many of them rough and plain and straight. A single idea is usually at the core of each of them, and it usually a simple one…This was a writer building up his chops.” That is not damning with faint praise. No, these are good stories – sometimes a bit Twilight Zoney; not actually great – but definitely good.

But then there are the stories that smack of that Ellison ability to stick with you long after the reading. You’re not always happy they stuck, but stick they do. Examples: “All the Sounds of Fear” about an actor who truly takes on his roles, “The Very Last Day of a Good Woman” about a man who knows the end of the world is at hand and is forced to come to terms with what would really make him happy, and “In Lonely Lands” about a man facing the end of his life with a Martian companion. These are deep stories, shorter than their impact would suggest.

But the one that smacked me upside the head when I reread it was “The Sky is Burning.” The minute I saw the title – the minute I started reading – it all came back to me; the hurt, the longing, the angst in this story. I can’t tell you when I first read this story about star men flaming to their deaths in the earth’s atmosphere, but I can tell you that, in spite of my not thinking about it for a number of years, it is embedded in some strange place in my DNA.

I will confess, the awarding of five stars for this collection may be a fit of fan-boy egotism. There are stronger Ellison collections; there are stronger Ellison stories. But this is a good, solid collection which includes incredible standouts.

And, of course, there is that introduction. ( )
1 vote figre | Feb 29, 2016 |
Originally published in 1962, this was Ellison's first, and provided a way for him (and his fledgling family of the time) to survive. I was happy to replace my early copy with the Bluejay edition, and even though the older one would be a serious collectible, this edition is still my favorite.

The stories themselves are mixed, and they do reflect a much earlier time, and a talent that was just getting started. ( )
  Lyndatrue | Dec 4, 2013 |
I don't think I'd like Ellison in person, but he has a fantastic imagination & a way of viewing life that is certainly unique. Excellent read. ( )
  jimmaclachlan | Sep 25, 2009 |
Great collection of short stories! I especially liked "All the Sounds of Fear" (provocative look at method acting), "The Sky is Burning," (dying aliens in the sky) and "Rain, Rain, Go Away" (what happens when the "other day" arrives). ( )
  krin5292 | Jul 11, 2008 |
A reprinting of a volume of short stories from the early 1960's, the printing of which rescued Ellison from an early breakdown. Other than the wonderful title to the book, these stories do not stand out particularly from others in his ouvre, but they are generally of a high quality. All have a foreword by the author. ( )
  burnit99 | Jan 13, 2007 |
Showing 5 of 5
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Harlan Ellisonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Kalin, VictorCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pepper, BobCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Shaw, BarclayCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Dedication
Kenny (This random group of leftover dreams and wry conspiracies I offer to Wednesday's child.... KENNY
with love and pride, and more than just a touch of sorrow)
First words
She was awakened by the yowling of cats in heat and in the dim weightiness of stirring consciousness.
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Disambiguation notice
The 1962 Paperback Library edition of Ellison Wonderland is identical to Earthman, Go Home!. The 1974 Signet reprint of Ellison Wonderland replaced "The Forces that Crush" (aka "Are You Listening?") with "Back to the Drawing Boards".
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Originally published in 1962 and updated in later decades with a new introduction, Ellison Wonderland contains sixteen 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 fifty years later.… (more)

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