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Deathbird Stories Paperback – May 25, 2009
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Top Customer Reviews
The best stories are very hard-hitting and emotionally affecting. These include The Whimper of Whipped Dogs, a retelling of the Kitty Genovese episode about the alleged god of New York City, The Basilisk, where the most terrifying aspect of the story is how a small town treats a returning POW and Pretty Maggie Moneyeyes where a manipulative woman continues to manipulate even after death. There are some other good stories, such as the road rage tale, though not as emotionally hard-hitting.
The problems in several of the stories stem from an abundance of cleverness. Rather than letting the story take the forefront, Harlan chooses to favor style over substance in an attempt to showcase his virtuoisity in the various methods of writing. This lessened some of his stories for me. He is most successful doing this in the titular tale, The Deathbird, but it was still distracting even there.
A very good collection though, despite the flaws. It is unapologetic and uncomprimising demanding you take the stories on their own terms.
The book straddles the boundaries between science fiction, fantasy and horror and as such it will not satisfy SF purists but it does contain a number of very powerful stories. The opening tale, "The Whimper of Whipped Dogs" is a shocking and worrying take on the cruelty of city violence. It is followed by "Along the Scenic Route" in which modern day knights in armour fight their jousts to the death on the public highway. Those two, along with "Ernest and the MachineGod", "Basilisk" and "Deathbird" are my favourites but they are not the only stories to leap off the page and grab hold of your imagination. There are some weaker tales here too but they are outnumbered by the good ones.
I'd not recommend this as an introduction to Ellison. The anthology "The Essential Ellison" fills that role perfectly but, if you read and enjoyed that, you will like this book. If you like this book, I'd recommend Ellen Datlow's themed anthology "Alien Sex" though not her rather weak follow up.
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".Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Loved it. Gritty, sometimes disturbing, always gripping. Highly recommend!Published 4 days ago by SF Reader
When I was a major Harlan Ellison kick my first time in college, I ran across "Deathbird Stories". Read morePublished 14 days ago by bareshark1975
They don't write them like this anymore. As best I can understand, this anthology is Ellison's argument against the existence of God - or if He does exist, he is neither benevolent... Read morePublished 6 months ago by mnemosyne
how can you go wrong with Harlan Ellison? have been a huge fan since I read "I have no mouth, and I must scream" he's a raving genius!Published 10 months ago by mikelly321
I read Deathbird Stories in paperback in the late 1970s. At that time, I did not think it was one of Harlan Ellison's stronger collections. Read morePublished 12 months ago by TChris
Harlan Ellison built his career on the short story format and as a result, became one of the most awarded living writers. Read morePublished 13 months ago by Philip P. Giunta