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The Essential Ellison: A 50-Year Retrospective

4.57  ·  Rating Details ·  1,253 Ratings  ·  55 Reviews
Updated from the popular 35-year retrospective collection, this book surveys an extra 15 years of his work. Included here are more than 75 unabridged stories, essays, personal reminiscences, and reviews, a complete teleplay and novella, and 16 previously uncollected stories. The Essential Ellison presents such classics as "A Boy and His Dog," "The Deathbird," and "I Have N ...more
Hardcover, 1200 pages
Published July 6th 2001 by Morpheus International (first published 1998)
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5.5 stars. Harlan Ellison is a National Treasure and I think his short ficiton should be required reading. I have not read all of the stories in this massive 1250 page tome but I have read a fair selection of Harlan's work collected here including both his very early work written wehn he was a teenager ("The Sword of Parmagon", "The Gloconda", "The Wilder One" and "The Saga of Machine Gun Joe") to some of the greatest short stories ever written ("I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream", "The Whimper ...more
Feb 25, 2009 Gil rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As one of the deckhands who worked on the original edition of this Titanic of a collection, I can't be objective about its contents. I do know that I lobbied for some of the stories to be included, I wrote some of the introductions, and my several copies of this weigh down a number of bookshelves in my house.

There's great stuff here, and some lesser things, but it almost never stops being entertaining. As an introduction to Harlan's work, it more than succeeds.
Oct 12, 2008 Craig rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who loves surreal imaginative fiction
I am a bit biased as Ellison is one of my favorite fiction authors. There just aren't that many writers with the sheer breadth and stupefying imagination that Ellison possesses. This massive collection of his short works is nearly beyond description. It contains such a staggering number of profoundly rich stories that it absolutely blows the mind. Some of the works included, such as "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream" are so disturbing they leave permanent marks. Others, like "'Repent, Harlequin ...more
Sep 14, 2007 Steve rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: all
Shelves: shortstories
Harlan Ellison is like an unknown precious treasure that you find in your grandmother's attic after it has been gathering dust in unbroken silence with no one to admire any of its virtues for longer than you've been alive. The Deathbird is worth the purchase price alone. It's a marvel. There are plenty of other stories that are also extraordinary, such as A Boy and His Dog and Along the Scenic Route, as well as deeply personal essays about his life experiences that are like crumbled up mint crem ...more
Benjamin Thomas
Harlan Ellison is an absolute giant in the world of speculative fiction, as most people are aware. His short fiction is among the most often cited examples of how to “do it right” and, quite honestly, should be studied by all who endeavor to write well themselves. This massive collection includes over 80 pieces of his work including science fiction, horror, humor, main-stream fiction, and several rather pointed essays. That sounds like a lot of material, but with Ellison’s output of over 1700+ s ...more
Read the STOP SMILING article about Harlan Ellison:

Bless the Knowledge, Curse the Lesson: Harlan Ellison and Counsel Fight the Good Fight
By Michael Helke

When the band Metallica filed suit against Napster for providing its subscribers with access to copyright-protected music, everybody scoffed. When Lars Ulrich and James Hetfield rolled onto Napster property like a couple Caesars crossing the Rubicon, clutching a stack of names of users who downloaded the band's music, the collective yawn their
Feb 18, 2012 Rachael rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own-this-book
great primer (and must have) for new Ellison fans. Old ones too. You'll find stories you haven't read (or re-read) in years. Get a friend a copy of your fave Ellison book, then suggest this one for more amazing stories. Better yet... he/she will either vlove or hate their first read of Harlan. You know how that goes. One is never enough!
The man has written everything from Star-trek episodes, ironic pieces, laugh out loud essays and everything in between.
He has a dark mind covering death, life, h
Theresa Glover
I have become as enchanted with the person behind the words as I have been with the words themselves. I found myself learning as much about the craft and art of storytelling as I was entertained by it, and by the enigma of the wizard behind the curtain. It seems that Ellison’s personality bleeds through the words and the reader alternately recoils in horror, laughs self-consciously, feels empathy and even sympathy and then sits back wondering when the hell the cavalry is going to arrive and the ...more
Sep 20, 2008 Branduno rated it it was amazing
There are many interesting things that can be said about Harlan Ellison, many of them fantastical, like the time he saved the life of a woman who was getting scammed by an internet crazy person with multiple identities, or nearly got into a spat with a video game web cartoonist. But a mouse capable of human speech once told me not to reveal the most interesting thing I know about him, at least as far as I'm involved, so I won't.
May 24, 2008 Lester rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Harlan Ellison is one of my favorite writers of all time, and this collection is some of his best work. No words I can write will do the man and his work justice, but he's an American treasure, and one of the best writers of the 20th Century.
The only short stories I reread.
Mar 25, 2009 AmirCat rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Eric Muss-Barnes
Book Review on YouTube
The Essential Ellison by Harlan Ellison

Harlan Ellison is one of my favorite authors of all time. You like him too, you just might not know it. In a career spanning more than 50 years, he has written novels and short stories and Twilight Zone episodes and Outer Limits episodes and worked on Babylon 5 and been published in magazines and newspapers composing everything from fiction to sports essays. My introduction to his writing came by way of the new Twilight Zone episodes in the 19
An absolutely essential collection for anyone who's a fan of Harlan Ellison, and more importantly for anyone who hasn't taken the chance on reading Ellison so far. One of my all-time favorite story collections! EXPANDED REVIEW: Speaking of Harlan Ellison...this collection is, quite simply, one of my favorite story collections of all time. Harlan Ellison is most frequently associated with the science fiction and fantasy genres, despite his desire to be considered a mainstream writer. In the real ...more
Aug 06, 2012 James rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in varied story telling approaches, science fiction and mystery readers
Harlan Ellison is one of the most engaging authors I have had a chance to read. While not all his works hit me the same way and in the same level of depth and raw emotional response, his stories always generate some feeling, some emotion. This collection, a massive 50 year retrospective, runs the gambit of the responses it generates. Ellison is one part specualtive fiction author, one part social commentator, and one part entropy generator, but all that combines into one heck of a showman of the ...more
Allan Dyen-Shapiro
Okay, so maybe I could do without the interviews or the stuff from early in his career (including his first published work at 14 during the pulp era). But all the masterpieces that make him the top American short story writer ever are here. If you haven't read "Repent Harlequin, said the Ticktockman" or "A Boy and His Dog," you are not sufficiently educated in literature. Many other gems here. Hysterical humor, chilling horror, wild fantasy, cool speculation, great social commentary--not always ...more
May 08, 2007 Xio rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: booksfrommy30s
This man has (had?) a fascinating eye vis a vis storytelling. I can picture sitting round the campfire in a deep black forest no sky in sight only the heightened red and yellow flickering pulling the darkness through the upper branches of the trees teasing it out while the leaves flutter in the air and Ellison is telling me a story and I can't figure out when to feel scared or if to be scared, hypnotized...
David Allen
1,250 pages? Look, I'm a fan, but the essential Ellison should run about 250 pages and include City on the Edge of Forever, a dozen stories or novellas, the climax of Memos From Purgatory, a couple of TV reviews, maybe his Selma and Steve McQueen pieces, and leave you wanting more. Much of this is very good, but the overstuffed contents and worshipful intros lay it on too thick. This is twice as long as "The Portable Shakespeare"!
Jun 12, 2013 B rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Harlan Ellison is one of the best authors I've ever read. I've been on the hook ever since I found Mephisto in Onyx in a quiet corner of the library one day (while skipping school) and didn't come up for air for the three hours it took me to finish the book. Whatever he writes, you will enjoy, as long as you like big ideas, social commentary, excellent prose, interesting plots, and characters that are expertly drawn (for good or bad).
Feb 08, 2008 bjhn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Just beautiful. Beautiful in an eerie, horrifying, gut-wrenching, raw, creepy-as-hell sort of way. Yet funny at the same time. "Mephisto in Onyx" had me enthralled. I preferred the short stories to the essays/screenplay, but to each his own. Harlan Ellison transports you to another world without telling you where you're going or giving you any directions when you get there, and the sense of alienation and grasping at straws pervades his stories.
Jared Sandman
Aug 04, 2012 Jared Sandman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
This is the 50th anniversary retrospective, not to be confused with the 35th anniversary one. This 1200+ page book brings together Ellison's most classic tales, from "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream" to "Paladin of the Lost Hour" and "The Whimper of Whipped Dogs." From sci-fi to fantasy to horror, any genre reader will find something to treasure.
The first 8 stories, in the Beginnings section, were written starting when Ellison was 15. And that's all I'm saying for now because I'm only on the 3rd story and come on, he was just a kid. The progression is what's important, right :)
Gordon Gravley
Aug 24, 2013 Gordon Gravley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Harlan Ellison was one of the first authors I read voraciously once discovering his work in the mid-seventies. I can't say his work is always great, but, with his limitless imagination and intelligence, he's never boring. This is a must-have collection for fans of Ellison or the speculative genre.
Aug 25, 2008 Dietcoupon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who kind of likes sci-fi
Gigantic books aren't as daunting when they're full of short stories. Ellison endings tend to leave me with a sick pit in my stomach, but thank god *somebody* knows how to end a story properly. His prose is both witty and imaginative.
Jan 15, 2016 Leif rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Everyone who enjoys strange fiction should have this. It contains stories written when he was just 14 to the present. All his best known stories are included and each section has an interesting forward by an Ellison scholar.
Kathy Orr
Apr 30, 2012 Kathy Orr rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Harlan Ellison is some one who I hope to have eventually read all of, in books anyway, It'd be just about impossible to read everything, a lot of it lost in pulp magazines. Gonna give it a try though.
James Debruicker
Harlan Ellison is brilliant. He's caustic as hell, and sometimes that can be a barrier to entry, but he's singularly talented. You could do far worse than this as a starting point (though, OK, the juvenalia at the very beginning may not be "essential" as such.
Sep 06, 2008 Brad rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This includes an awesome amount of material, with such classics as "A Boy And His Dog". Probably best not to commit to this unless you've already developed a taste for Harlan, because while the man gets lumped into the SF crowd, he's really all over the place.
Michael Shilling
If you want to understand the American Nervous Breakdown (to be too easy I'll say from Sputnik to the first Halloween movie) then read Ellison. Also if you want a master class in plot he's, uh, essential.
Jul 30, 2008 Erin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I refer to this book as The Bible. It has all of Harlan's greatest up to the time of publishing. And it's as thick as a bible. He's brilliant, sarcastic, poignant and so much more. I reread stories in this one ALL the time. It's a must for any sci fi fan, or anyone with any taste.
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Harlan Jay Ellison is a prolific American writer of short stories, novellas, teleplays, essays, and criticism.

His literary and television work has received many awards. He wrote for the original series of both The Outer Limits and Star Trek as well as The Alfred Hitchcock Hour; edited the multiple-award-winning short story anthology series Dangerous Visions; and served as creative consultant/write
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“The passion for revenge should never blind you to the pragmatics of the situation. There are some people who are so blighted by their past, so warped by experience and the pull of that silken cord, that they never free themselves of the shadows that live in the time machine...

And if there is a kind thought due them, it may be found contained in the words of the late Gerald Kersh, who wrote:"... there are men whom one hates until a certain moment when one sees, through a chink in their armour, the writhing of something nailed down and in torment.”
“Uh, excuse me, sir, I, uh, don't known how to uh, to uh, tell you this, but you were three minutes late. The schedule is a little, uh, bit off."
He grinned sheepishly.
"That's ridiculous!" murmured the Ticktockman behind his mask. "Check your watch." And then he went into his office, going mrmee, mrmee, mrmee, mrmee.”
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