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Approaching Oblivion

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  652 Ratings  ·  39 Reviews
The New York Times called him "relentlessly honest" and then used him as the subject of its famous Sunday Acrostic. People Magizine said there was no one like him, then cursed him for preventing easy sleep. But in these stories Harlan Ellison outdoes himself, rampaging like a mad thing through love ("Cold Friend", "Kiss of Fire", "Paulie Charmed the Sleeping Woman"), hate ...more
Paperback, 213 pages
Published March 1st 1985 by St Martins Press (first published January 1st 1974)
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Jun 03, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: autographed
There is no such thing as a bad Ellison collection. The man rocks. However there is one story here that would be worth the price of admission even if all the others sucked (they don't). "I'm Looking for Kadak" is a very funny tale about Jewish aliens trying to form a Minyan for worship. It helps to know more than a little Yiddish to read this story. But never fear. Ellison provides a glossary. How thoughtful!
Charles Dee Mitchell
This was my first and is likely to be my only encounter with the writing of Harlan Ellison. It's not as though I didn't know what I letting myself in for. Ellison's reputation as an old crank, which he wears a a badge of honor, precedes him. I have watched Dreams with Sharp Teeth, the 2008 documentary on him and actually rather enjoyed it. (It might have been very late at night) But this anthology dates from the mid-1970's, so he was at most a forty-year-old crank. Old cranks can have undeniable ...more
Aug 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in speculative fiction
One of the lesser known Ellison collections, it remains a favorite that I recommend to everyone. the dedication itself is thought provoking, but the stories are what Ellison is known for and in this book we find the ideas coming fiercely and at fever pitch. One story, short enough to maintain a significant sting and relevant to all, is the work "Ecowareness" - a story of the Earth waking up from a nap to find that we have disturbed its slumber, so it starts relentlessly wiping us out so it can h ...more
Hard as it can be to describe an Ellison story, you feel you must try if only to say something else to a friend besides, “You must READ this book!”

No. That’s not quite true. I would hesitate to recommend this book to a friend. There’s a palpable chill lying over these tales and visible traces of anger in quite a few. Even in “I’m Looking for Kadak”, a tale that strives for humor in every Yiddish-inflected sentence, there is a decided grimness as alien Jews prepare to sit shivah to a dying planet
Aug 19, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
Back in the 1970s, my girlfriend and I read a lot of Harlan Ellison story collections, and liked them. In fact, some of the stories were required in my college classes. The other day, a lot of decades later, my wife was discarding some old SF books of hers, and I saw this one. Somehow, I had not read this one back then, and so resolved to read it now.

I think most of these were written after Harlan Ellison became famous and a required inclusion in all new anthologies, and published in the likes o
Erik Graff
Apr 21, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Ellison fans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: sf
Harlan Ellison is usually a safe bet. The two Dangerous Visions volumes he edited are superior collections of short science fiction and representative of the kind of taboo-tweaking characteristic of his own writing as demonstrated in this sampling of his work.
Dec 08, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
This was only my second dive into the work of Harlan Ellison. My first experience, Phoenix Without Ashes, was very satisfying. Unfortunately, I could not recommend Approaching Oblivion. For me, the stories fell into three groups:

Stories worth the read:
"I'm Looking for Kadak" - narrator is a multi-legged, multi-armed Jewish alien who speaks in Yiddish slang. Enjoyable, humorous read
"One Life, Furnished in Early Poverty" - a nice time travel yarn about what makes up one's past,
"Ecowareness" - a
C.W. Smith
Oct 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
Without getting in the weeds of praise, I'll go ahead and break my normal rule, to wait until I've traversed an artistic work no less than two times before I name it a favorite out of fresh enthusiasm, and laud "Hindsight: 480 Seconds" as the best sci-fi story I've ever read.

I'm more of a horror guy. Science fiction isn't normally my bag because science, well, I'm not a "how" guy. The "what if?" game doesn't appeal to me in the practical sense. Me being a horror guy and not a sci-fi guy, I stil
May 06, 2008 rated it really liked it
Ah, I enjoyed this collection of Ellison better than the last. These were some consistently fresh and clever stories one after another. There was a strange marketing disconnect, however, in the marketing for the book.

Ellison gives one of his trademark introductions about his contempt and sadness for the state of the world that are like blood spraying from an open chest wound -- so unbelievably raw -- that ends with something like "and if you see me weeping sometimes, it's because you killed me
Mar 31, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Part of my mission to go back and read books I'd left unfinished for no good reason. This was one of the featured selections in the very first month of my Science Fiction Book Club subscription (in 1974). The collection is a bit raggedy and uneven, but sometimes brilliant and bold and moving. Ellison takes risks, and I admire the effort even when it doesn't work and sometimes marvel at the results when it does. This was from a time when "sci-fi" was morphing into "speculative fiction," making it ...more
Harlan Ellison is my homeboy. I want that on a T-shirt, a la all those trendy celebrities who have "Jesus Is My Homeboy" shirts.

I found this in a dusty old used bookstore on the north side of town here, and it appears to be a first edition, tattered dust jacket and all. There are eleven stories herein, all of which contain a negative futuristic element of some sort. True to Ellison's usual form, he managed to be terrifying, misanthropic, achingly human, outrageously funny, and heartbreaking, som
Jan 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
One thing you can say--there's no one like Ellison. And I mean not only his stories, but the man himself. I saw him once and it was an experience.
In this collection, there were some stories I had not read before, but my favorite is one I read a long time ago-the semi-autobiographical "One Life, Furnished in Early Poverty."
Jan 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of Ellison's least well-known collections but still features some wonderful writing even though none of his truly iconic award-winners are included. It's a short book by current standards, but packs quite a punch nonetheless. All of the stories fall within the confines of the speculative genre this time around. My favorites are I'm Looking For Kadak, Ecowareness, and One Life Furnished in Early Poverty.
Jun 07, 2017 rated it it was ok
Edgelord of the 70s. Redeemable by the first story in the collection. Silent in Gehenna was also OK. Almost everything else was underwhelming, boring, or simply hasn't aged well enough as sci-if. I sometimes found myself thinking that the dystopia we live in is creepier than the stories Ellison penned. I still want to read "I Have no Mouth..." but I won't be rushing out to find it.
Kevin Shepherd
"The female puts her long middle finger of the bottom arm on the right side, straight into the pupik [belly-button] and goes moofky-foofky, and that's how we shtup."

for this my eleven year old self hid this book from my parents!
Jon Sauve
About half the stories were amazing. The other half were mediocre. It averages out to being a good collection.
Aug 10, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I discovered Harlan Ellison in junior high or high school. And I remember reading Approaching Oblivion way back then, sometime in the early to mid 1980s. And I also remember going nuts for this book, indeed for all of Ellison's writing. Today, however, 30 to 35 years later, I can see the worms in the polished apple of my nostalgia. Reading this book now, the only story I even vaguely remember from my way-back-then reading is "I'm Looking for Kadak." I didn't remember any of the other stories, no ...more
John Peel
Sep 30, 2016 rated it liked it
First off, I have to say that Harlan Ellison is a brilliant, often poetical writer. Then I have to say that I often dislike his stories. That might sound contradictory, but it isn't really. You see, he's also an angry writer; he writes stories about people who've failed their dreams, who've betrayed others (or even themselves), or who are just plain unlikable. His stories are often full of rage, quite often with reason. The thing is, though, that I don't have that anger. Maybe I should have, bec ...more
Dec 29, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was my first dive into Harlan Ellison's writing. My dad suggested I read some. He's been a fan for many years. I thought some of the stories were really good and others were at least interesting. It makes me curious to read some of his other works, so I will probably be on the lookout for more of these in the future. The way he writes reminds me a bit of Vonnegut, but a little edgier. My favorite stories from this collection were: "One Life, Furnished in Early Poverty", "Cold Friend", and " ...more
Drew Weatherton
Mar 16, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crichton
I'm not a huge Harlan Ellison fan but I gather that he wouldn't care if I were or were not. I watched a documentary on him and then read Michael Crichton's forward of this book just to get enough of a feel for who he is to be certain I don't care to know much more. He's certainly an individual and one with a unique style and clear opinions. I'm adding this to my "read" list to capture that I read Crichton's forward which was brief but insightful.
David Allen
More misses than hits in this 1974 collection, I'm afraid, with too many "messages" and the longest story, "Catman," being kind of horrible. But "Cold Friend," about a guy who's dead but doesn't realize it, is very funny, and "Hindsight: 480 Seconds," about a poet witnessing the end of the world, is worthy of Bradbury.
Aug 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing
The foreword to this book, entitled "Reaping The Whirlwind", touched a deep and lonely space in me as a kid. The stories are masterfully told--the sadness, rage and passion contained within these pages is absolutely palpable.

I loved this book when I first read it, and I love it still.
Recommended wholeheartedly.
Nov 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a good collection of mostly 70's-era Ellison stories. Devoted Ellison fanatics will love it--Ellison's vehemence and creativity are always on. This one is worthwhile for "Knox," a disturbing tale dealing with race hatred, and the poignant (and classic) "One Life Furnished in Early Poverty."
Apr 15, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed reading some of the stories, including "Knox," "Paulie Charmed the Sleeping Woman," and "I'm Looking For Kadak." The collection is worth reading, but I didn't find it as engaging as I was expecting it to be.
Oct 24, 2012 rated it liked it
First story 'Knox' almost made me put the book away, final story 'Hindsight: 480 Seconds' made me want to crave for more. That's how it's done! First Ellison I've ever read, certainly not the last! If you're looking for a diverse collection of crazed tales, Ellison is the man for you!
Mar 21, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
As with most Ellison there's some good, some so-so.
Jul 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I think this was one of Ellison's best books.
Jason Wardell
Nov 21, 2008 rated it really liked it
I'm saving this for Florida!
Sep 09, 2010 marked it as to-read
Shelves: sf-fantasy
*note to self.copy from Al.
Feb 25, 2008 rated it really liked it
Out of print. Ellison's imagination is stunning. Disturbing but wickedly fun.
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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 about Harlan Ellison...

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