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Deathbird Stories

4.24 of 5 stars 4.24  ·  rating details  ·  2,530 ratings  ·  141 reviews
What can we say that hasn't already been said about Harlan Ellison? That his fierce intelligence, excoriating wit and pit-bull tenacity and fearlessness make him one of science fiction's most controversial personalities? That, in a field often smothered in non-viable dreams of wonder, his hyperactive inventions rage, gnaw, slice, pummel and twist through to the bloody red...more
Kindle Edition, 346 pages
Published March 5th 2012 by Gollancz (first published 1975)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Sarah Keliher
Jun 04, 2007 Sarah Keliher rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: readers who found american gods not quite dark enough
I somehow discovered this book when I was a kid. As dark and violent as it was, I found it weirdly hopeful. Finally, I thought, an adult who won't fucking lie to you, someone who will just say yes, everything sucks and people are screwed up and the only thing you can do in the face of all this misery is fight, even though you'll probably fail. Fight, and remember that everyone else is in pain, and never lose your outrage or your compassion. Not to pile more melodrama onto this paragraph, but it...more
Ben Loory
i remember when this came in the mail from the science fiction book club when i was twelve. it was like having someone tear out my stomach.
Stephen
6.0 stars. Another superb collection of short stories by the greatest short story writer of all time. While all of the stories in this collection are excellent, I would mention "The Whimper of Whipped Dogs" as one that particularly affected me when I read it. HIGHEST POSSIBLE RECOMMENDATION!!

Winner: British Science Fiction Award for Best Collection (1979)
Nominee: World Fantasy Award for Best Collection (1976)
Nominee: Locus Award for Best Collection (1976)
Voted to the Locus List of All Time Best...more
Joel Abel
for me this books represents one of those rare moments in life where you can point to a single instant and say, "that moment changed me".

i was around thirteen years old, and, as a lot of young teenagers, really struggling with Christianity, social expectations, parental smothering, etc. and so on. lets just say the box was feeling particularly small and i was feeling the squeeze.

enter a fateful trip to the local flea market/second hand emporium.

imagine a flea market booth so full of worthless i...more
Mary JL
Dec 18, 2009 Mary JL rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: sf fans; fans of short stories, those seeking something "different"
Shelves: main-sf-fantasy
Harlan Ellison is a passionate writer with a unique style. I've have read many of his story stories, including these in this book.

Like most of Ellison's work, these stories are aiming for an emotional effect. Ellison has a great deal of anger in some stories, also he has very little optimism.

I often think of this child's poem when I read Ellison: "There once was a girl And she had a curl Right in the middle of her forehead And when she was good, she was very, very good And when she was bad she w...more
Patti
Nov 14, 2007 Patti rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: can't recommend
I think I'm might be in a minority on this book. It has had many good reviews on many venues and was a bookclub pick by one of our more adventurous members.

While this may not be my cup of tea - there are a couple of things specifically that bothered me about the book.

1. Many of the stories are firmly set in their era - the book was published in 1975 and you can tell by all of his branded references. Maybe this would be cool if you were reading it in 1975 and you could relate to the brands and tr...more
Marvin
Harlan Ellison is one of my favorite short story writers but his output can be inconsistent. Deathbird Stories is easily his finest collection. These works are unflinchingly cynical and brutally honest about the human condition yet it is apparent that the writer hopes that mankind will rise and find something about it that is noble. If there is one repeating theme it is that man must create gods for itself even though those gods always fail us. Ellison's warning that these stories should not be...more
Jeff Lawrence
A masterpiece of bleak, modern not-quite-horror.

The Deathbird is a series of short stories that I damn near required all my friends and lovers to read. They are bleak, bitter, angry ... and fascinating. Like a car wreck you can't help but rubberneck at as you drive past it, Deathbird left me a little weak in the knees and sometimes, a little sick to my stomach from the emotional wreckage of the characters-- and the window they opened into my own psyche.

Read it alone, in a well-lit room.
Wait and...more
Alazzar
I had to give up on this collection around page 183, in the middle of a story that meant nothing to me.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m bad at reading anthologies (with the exception of The Collected Stories of Roger Zelazny, of course). The problem is that anytime I hit a story I’m not a big fan of, it makes it harder and harder to pick the book back up. I do all right with short story collections on the Kindle, but part of that is because it’s harder to tell how many pages are left dur...more
Simon
I didn't know quite what to expect from this volume, especially after reading the author's caveat at the beginning:

It is suggested that the reader not attempt to read this book at one sitting. The emotional content of these stories, taken without break, may be extremely upsetting. This note is intended most sincerely, and not as hyperbole.

Not that this is an issue for me, I never read books in one sitting. But after finishing these stories I can see what the author means and agree that it is not...more
Rob
Deathbird Stories is a short story cycle surrounding the idea of gods new and old interacting with everyday America. Yeah, it wasn't Neil Gaiman's idea. Throughout all of the stories Ellison maintains a consistent dark energy in his narrative voice that grips the reader and drives the story forward. This beautiful and agressive style manages to keep even the less successful stories enjoyable.

Like any story collection, the quality varies, but Ellison (or his publishing company) is smart enough to...more
Suz
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 b...more
Nicholas Beck
This was one of the most interesting group of stories I have ever read. Many of them were graphic, but it was necessary in stories of this style. Ellison really shows in each story how great a writer he is with the intensity of the implications leftover after finishing one of the Deathbird Stories. Some of the stories in this books left me with so much to think about, it was hard to read another one right after the other. This made me take a lot longer to read the whole book, but I also think I...more
Jason Wardell
"It is suggested that the reader not attempt to read this book at one sitting. The emotional content of these stories, taken without break, may be extremely upsetting. This note is intended most sincerely, and not as hyperbole. GO AT YOUR OWN RISK."
-Harlan Ellison

I'm only around halfway through, but these are some of the most deeply disturbing and enthralling short stories I've ever read. I particularly enjoyed the first, "The Whimper of Whipped Dogs" and "Basilisk." Also, despite its similariti...more
Keith Stevenson
The years have not been kind to the stories in this collection. Published in 1975, the book opens with a 'caveat lector' warning us not to read the stories one after the other without a break as the emotional content 'may be extremely upsetting'. No doubt some of the concepts dealt with were confronting at the time, now the writing style in the stories comes across as overwrought, preachy and full of telling, telling telling. Not to mention the overt misogeny, and the lack in variation of tone:...more
Galo
Profane and unsettling, Deathbird Stories will stay with you long after it has collected dust on your bookshelf. Never apologetic, Harlan Ellison’s words resonate with passion and precision, taking the reader to a chaotic and godless view of who we are and where we will be. Deathbird Stories is the inkwell of our psyche; the altar of despair.
Dennis R. Thompson
This guy's intellect is frightening. His stories are frightening. Inspirational because they are so real, impossible, and grotesque.
neko cam
This was such a varied work. The message behind each story, the style of prose, and even the format changes wildly. The common thread is that they deal with gods - though often this is in a very imaginative, unique interpretation of the word.

The first story, 'The Whimper of Whipped Dogs', absolutely astounded me; it was so very unexpectedly brutal and blunt. I don't mean this in the sense that the clamorous gore of 'American Psycho' was brutal and blunt, but in that it depicts so viscerally the...more
Scott Rhee
Harlan Ellison is one of my consistently favorite writers of all time. I have a rotating list of favorite writers in my top 10 list at any given time, mainly because I am always trying to read new authors, so from week to week the list is always different, but Ellison has always remained firmly at the top of that list, next to Mark Twain and William Shakespeare (who, to be honest, have occasionally been superseded by the latest "phase" authors that I am into. For example, I am currently in a Lee...more
Jill
Deathbird Stories famously starts with a caveat: don't read it all in one sitting, Unca Harlan warns, because it's intense, it's upsetting, and it'll fuck you up. Now as a rule, I respect Unca Harlan's opinion -- he's the angriest motherfucker to ever love words, and it positions him firmly Up My Alley. But: "PAH!" upon reading the warning -- "I've got steel for emotional skin when it comes to supposedly creepy stories. Whatever, Ellison."

Yeah no. I don't. Don't read them in a single sitting.

It'...more
Mira Domsky
I read about half of the short stories in this collection before I had to return the book to the library. I would have kept it longer, but it was an ILL, so no go. A lot of them were terribly violent, and almost none of them were optimistic, but they all had a vitality that kept me turning the pages. Sections out the short stories "The Deathbird," and "Basilisk" truly awed me. The theme of the book was modern and future gods, and what may have become of old ones. The first story was about a god...more
Kathryn
As usual, Harlan Ellison's introduction to the book is just as fascinating as the stories themselves. He also included a disturbing quote:

"Men rarely (if ever) manage to dream up a god superior to themselves. Most gods have the manners and morals of a spoiled child." --Robert Heinlein, 1973

In my better moments, I see religion as humanity reaching for something that is THERE. Something that exists and is perfect, despite our imperfect understanding.

In my darker moments, I see religion the way Ell...more
Litho Fayne
I first read this book when I was probably around 15 years old, and it certainly changed my life forever. This collection of short stories presented a new way of thinking that I had not encountered before, and the reader is certainly rewarded to read the entire collection, for the last story is nothing if not mind-blowing.

The overall theme of the book (gods and belief) is one that I would not encounter again until I was introduced to Neil Gaiman's work, for Mr. Gaiman was also influenced by the...more
Tracey
Picked this off my shelves after watching Harlan Ellison: Dreams with Sharp Teeth on Netflix streaming - was surprised to learn Neil Gaiman was friends w/ Ellison.

I think this is a re-read for me, but am not quite sure, as I've read & own multiple anthologies/compilations of Ellison's work. I know I've read "Pretty Maggie Moneyeyes" before & "Along the Scenic Route" also seemed familiar - perhaps anthologized in Car Sinister.

Is it just me, or is Ellison's work feel dated at times to ot...more
Kevin
This book has three stories out of eighteen that I enjoyed... They were "The Whimper of Whipped Dogs," "Paingod," and "Deathbird." All of the others ranged from boring to uninteresting. Ellison has a cynicism to most of his stories that I found really off-putting. Also, his characters and themes are so firmly rooted in the 70s that they have little to offer a modern audience. ONce again this is with the exception of the about three which were interesting in different ways.

"The Whimper of Whipped...more
Paul Murphy
It`s funny. Some books you grow out of ; some books you grow in to. I first read this book arund 15 years ago and my young mind couldnt get his head around it. However, with each successive reading (once a year), it really does stay with you. I would recommend to anyone interested in Harlan Ellison to get a copy then follow-up with `I have no mouth and I must scream` (honestly, with a title like that, how could you *not* be interested!!!)

My personal favourites are `The whimper of whipped dogs` -...more
Celeste
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Owen
In the author's foreward Ellison warns the reader not to finish this whole book in one sitting, as he is genuinely concerned that the resulting emotional state is not something he would wish on anyone. HEED THE WARNING, I wish I had. These are some of his best short stories, but taken all together it's just too much concentrated bleakness, misery and despair to easily shake off afterwards. That being said, run out right now and get your hands on a copy, it's the best short story collection I've...more
Michael Shilling
Found Ellison as a teenager, and his stories tore me apart and rebuilt me. Just reread them 20 years later and stand in shock and reverence. Sure, these stories can at times veer towards the angry-young-man thing and / or can be a little Dr. Preposterous, but it doesn't matter because they're brilliantly inventive, ferociously written, and full of 20/10 parallax vision about the workings of human sorrow. Rings with the madness of prophecy.
Barry
Harlan Ellison – how come I have never heard of you before? Ellison is an AMAZING writer. I picked this up due to wanting to read 12 new SF Grandmasters in 2014. I’m pretty much going through them in recent order of ‘unread’. ‘Deathbird Stories’ was picked purely because it’s on a couple of ‘best of’ lists – no other reason why.

Well, I am so delighted I have read this – the collection is amazing and Ellison has quickly put himself on my ‘must read more of’ list.

The stories in this collection foc...more
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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...more
More about Harlan Ellison...
Dangerous Visions I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream Again, Dangerous Visions "Repent, Harlequin!" Said the Ticktockman Shatterday

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