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Approaching Oblivion: Road Signs on the Treadmill Toward Tomorrow Hardcover – December 1, 1974


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 184 pages
  • Publisher: Walker; Book Club Edition edition (December 1974)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B001F8K1KK
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,486,528 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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Too often Ellison's wrath gets the better of him.
Jonathan "WorldsWithoutEnd dot com"
As for the rest of the stories in this book, I didn't find any that were Harlan at his worst.
EMAN NEP
Anything he writes is worth the time to read and/or the money it costs.
dragnjoyce

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By EMAN NEP on May 28, 2001
Format: Paperback
Having read lots of Harlan Ellison's collections, I can honestly say that this one is not one of his best. You won't find any Hugo-award winners in here, folks. Of course, I've read LOTS of Harlan stories that DIDN'T win awards and were absolutely WONDERFUL. There is one such story in this collection that comes to mind--Erotophobia. Remember the opening scene of Austin Powers? Where he's being chased by all these women. That's the basic idea for that story. Absolutely hilarious. As for the rest of the stories in this book, I didn't find any that were Harlan at his worst. Even the story Catman, the longest and least enjoyable of the bunch had a little something to it. I wouldn't recommend that first time Harlan-readers start here, though. But for those of us that have read our Harlan, this is definitely worth getting.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 17, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is a good collection of mostly 70's-era Ellison stories. Devoted Ellison fanatics will love it. A more critical one, myself, I was impressed but not interested in several of the stories, but 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."
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Parker on July 9, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book collects eleven stories that were mostly written in the late 60's and early 70's. It was published in 1974, when Ellison's view of the world and of America was at a low ebb, as he makes clear in one of his patented in-your-face introductions. (Not many authors have the chutzpah to call their readers cowards and sell-outs and fools and...other words that start with f...) Like a lot of collections, it's an uneven affair. A couple of stories are so slight as to make you wonder why they were included at all, and several more are written at such a pitch of paranoid political and cultural rage (an Ellison trademark) as to be a bit embarassing now, forty years down the road. (Embarassing for the reader, that is - I'm sure Ellison would stand by them completely, and would hand a profanity-punctuated beating to anyone who suggested otherwise). But even weaker Ellison stories are still definitely live wires, and a few tales here are very fine, especially the autoboigraphical and deeply-felt One Life, Furnished in Early Poverty, in which a middle aged writer travels back in time to befriend a lonely, outcast little boy - himself, at the age of seven. With Harlan Ellison, you take the good with the bad; you'll find them, not just in the same book, but often in the same paragraph. You certainly can't snooze through his stories - alternately appaling and brilliant, they're never a waste of time.
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Ellison's stories punch where it hurts. Approaching Oblivion (1974) is filled with transfixing tales about violent future racism ("Knox"), humanity's last moments ("Kiss of Fire"), the desperate desire to change one's own past ("One Life, Furnished in Early Poverty"), a last rebel against the militarizing system ("Silent in Gehanna"), and familial rivalry within a vast arcology ("Catman"), etc...

They are terrifying and vicious, immersive and gut-wrenching, and span from baroque far future speculations to near future warnings. Above all, they are well-written and intelligent. Many are infused with (pseudo) autobiographical content and lament the societal ills that Ellison sees as most pervasive and dangerous and most of the time he believes it's futile to do anything about it.

Warning: I suspect some readers will find the nihilistic and caustic tone of the volume tedious. Ellison proclaims at the end of his introduction: "This is what tomorrow looks like, dummy" (16). And he can't resist taking a swipe at the reader (and the American public in general), "if you hear me sobbing once in a while, it's only because you've killed me, too, you f[*****]" (16).

But the sobs are beautiful...

...and I need more of his collections.

For fans of New Wave SF and vitriolic social SF.

Brief Plot Summary/Analysis

"Knox" (1974) 5/5 (Very Good): The collection starts off with a mordant and literary story of a dystopic future plagued by racism -- a future (perhaps) where the Patriotism Party holds great allure. The work is particularly hard-hitting due to the fact that similar white supremacist groups exist today.
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