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Angry Candy Paperback – April 20, 2016
Attention Science Fiction Fans
Man vs. machine, humans vs. aliens, paranormal activities – discover the best of science fiction with these collectible books. Learn More.
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The diversity of Ellison's work can be seen in the next story, the hysterical "Laugh Track" (I read this story on a plane and made the person next to me think I was mental, trying desperately not to laugh out loud). Ellison tackles many topics with a keen eye on social observation and a deadly sharp tongue, like race relations in "Paladin of the Lost Hour" and fraud and deception in "On the Slab." Of special note in this book is the introduction, in which Ellison laments the deaths of 44 of his friends within a two-year period, and gives one of the most unique interpretations of life and death you're likely to ever see.
This, however, is his strongest and most consistent collection, at least that I've come across. The collection itself won both a Locus Award and a World Fantasy Award for Best Collection of 1988/89. Of the 17 stories presented here, there is an Edgar winner ("Soft Monkey"), a Hugo winner ("Paladin of the Lost Hour"), and five Locus winners ("The Region Between", "With Virgil Oddum at the East Pole", "Paladin", "The Function of Dream Sleep", and "Eidolons").
That doesn't even include one of my favorites--"Chained to the Fast Lane in the Red Queen's Race".
And back to that inconsistency issue: To be fair, sometimes it's not entirely Harlan's fault. A lot of his best ideas and tropes captured the popular imagination in the 1960's and 1970's and have since been absorbed, digested, and regurgitated by other writers in various forms. For example, one of the short stories in Angry Candy is "Escapegoat", a two-page short-short which posits that significant events in our history are really the work of time travelers from the future who are manipulating the timeline to affect their present reality. I don't know if Harlan was the first to postulate this, but the idea has certainly pervaded the culture in the years since Angry Candy was published. From cheesy movies like Timecop to brilliant novels like Orson Scott Card's Pastwatch, you can make the case that Harlan's fledgling idea fragment has now influenced a generation of science fiction fans.
Same thing goes for "Broken Glass", a wonderful depiction of telepaths fighting a war inside the tunnels and bunkers of the brain. Groundbreaking stuff back in the 1980's, perhaps, but it's been done to death since.
Perhaps this is the best reason to track down an out-of-print copy of Angry Candy. Ellison continually comes up with new, bizarre, and interesting worlds to visit. If some of those ideas seem a bit stale 26 years later... well, that's sometimes the price of genius.
Imitation is the best flattery, right?