- Mass Market Paperback: 346 pages
- Publisher: Dell (October 1980)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0440117372
- ISBN-13: 978-0440117377
- Package Dimensions: 7 x 4.2 x 0.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 78 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,163,069 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Deathbird Stories Mass Market Paperback – October, 1980
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The collection combines some of the finest fantasy of the 20th century mixed with a loose thread to tie the work together. The collection begins with the Caveat Lector: a warning to the readers to not attempt to read the book in one sitting. For most of the stories, this advice is unnecessary. The utility will vary from reader to reader based upon how each story impacts him/her. For me, it was certainly good advice after the story "Paingod." The collection begins with "The Whimper of Whipped Dogs," a story for the uninitiated that will provide a baptism by fire. It is not for the sensitive persons of the world who cry foul upon reading a four letter word. It is at times extremely graphic (depicting the savage slaughter of a person and depicting a forceful sexual encounter). However, it is the final story to which the Caveat Lector is most applicable. "The Deathbird" is a peculiar story in so much as it is written in a format that is intended to resemble a school exam. There are two portions of the story that can bring the most stoic of readers to their knees. One portion is a section that reads as a short story penned the day after the author put his pal Abu–a pet dog–to sleep. The line "don't leave me with strangers" first arises in the portion dedicated to Abu and then is echoed with tremendous effect later on.
In short, I gave this book five stars and quite enjoy the writing of Harlan Ellison. I recommend that you give this book a chance. If you are not sure whether you will like Ellison, pickup the book and jump to "Pretty Maggie Moneyeyes" and "Along the Scenic Route." If neither of these stories works for you, then set the book back down and walk away: Harlan Ellison is not for you. If either of these stories works for you, read on.
I'm not sure whether I became inured to the writing style or the stories just got better but by about half way through this collection of short stories I was becoming an Ellison fan. By the end I definitely was. Amazing and bizarre perspectives that contort, dissect and then disembowel conventional reality.
Highly recommended for adventurous readers who want a truly surreal reading experience. Seriously.
Take, for instance, "Shattered Like A Glass Goblin". I can only assume this story was a response to the time period in which it was written, when many American youths were lost in a haze of drugs. Ellison paints a picture of the dangers of drug dependency, and although I can respect the moral, this story was lacking something, in my opinion. I need characters who develop alongside a thickening plot, and this tale is little more than a downward spiral into the hallucinations of a drug-addled mind. Good imagery, but no real structure. "At The Mouse Circus" and "The Place With No Name" are in the same vein as far as losing me. Lots of far-fetched, otherworldly gobbledegook. "At The Mouse Circus" had great visuals, but it was rather confusing. I couldn't tell you the actual point of the story. If anyone knows, please message me! "The Place With No Name" follows a down-on-his-luck pimp who is offered an escape from a police manhunt by entering another world. From there I got lost.
I can understand why so many people put Harlan Ellison on a pedestal. It is a throne he rightfully earned through diligence and honing his craft over the years. The stories that were good were extremely engaging. Among them were: "The Whimper Of Dogs", "Along The Scenic Route", “Basilisk”, "Pretty Maggie Money Eyes", "The Face Of Helene Bournouw", and "Bleeding Stones". I must say it brought a smile to my face to see Ellison do horror so well in the aforementioned "Bleeding Stones". The story was brutal and dark. Many kudos.
The longer stories at the end of this book are worth a read, too, although very strange, as tends to be the case in this collection. All in all I give “Deathbird Stories” three stars. I enjoyed most of it, though there were stories that made me scratch my head as to why this book receives raving reviews. Maybe it's just me. Maybe the theme of gods and goddesses is lost on me because I prefer more boundaries in the fiction I read. It seems like anything goes when you're dealing with gods, afterlives, and dreams. This could be the same reason I gave three stars to Neil Giaman's “American Gods” when all my peers were so impressed by it. The writing is good, the talent is there, but the ideas are so terribly far-fetched. I guess that's how it goes when dealing with the gods!
Most recent customer reviews
Lots of demons and technology.