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Deathbird Stories Hardcover – December 1, 2010

4.7 out of 5 stars 55 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Harlan Ellison has been called “one of the great living American short story writers” by the Washington Post. In a career spanning more than fifty years, he has won more awards than any other living fantasist. Ellison has written or edited one hundred fourteen books; more than seventeen hundred stories, essays, articles, and newspaper columns; two dozen teleplays; and a dozen motion pictures. He has won the Hugo Award eight and a half times (shared once); the Nebula Award three times; the Bram Stoker Award, presented by the Horror Writers Association, five times (including the Lifetime Achievement Award in 1996); the Edgar Award of the Mystery Writers of America twice; the Georges Melies Fantasy Film Award twice; and two Audie Awards (for the best in audio recordings); and he was awarded the Silver Pen for Journalism by PEN, the international writers’ union. He was presented with the first Living Legend Award by the International Horror Critics at the 1995 World Horror Convention. Ellison is the only author in Hollywood ever to win the Writers Guild of America award for Outstanding Teleplay (solo work) four times, most recently for “Paladin of the Lost Hour,” his Twilight Zone episode that was Danny Kaye’s final role, in 1987. In 2006, Ellison was awarded the prestigious title of Grand Master by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Dreams With Sharp Teeth, the documentary chronicling his life and works, was released on DVD in May 2009.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 394 pages
  • Publisher: Subterranean Press; Deluxe edition (December 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596060859
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596060852
  • Product Dimensions: 10.1 x 7.2 x 1.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,548,393 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This is a very black, dark book. This is not a book for kids, nor is it a book for people who haven't read anything by Ellison previously. Harlan Ellison is one of those rare writers that can finish a story so powerfully, that you'll feel like you've been literally stabbed in the heart. Like many of Ellison's short story collections, he deals with a specific theme. In this book, he writes short stories about gods, in all their myriad shapes and forms. Gods of machines, pain, rocks, speed, revenge, among others. Of the 19 stories in this collection, let me tell you what I consider to be the best. THE WHIMPER OF WHIPPED DOGS: Ellison's award-winning retelling of the Kitty Genovese incident. Never heard of Kitty Genovese? Don't worry, after reading this chilling tale, you'll make sure you remember. BASILISK: A traitor to his country comes home and finds that he is not welcome. A little confusing at first, but you'll soon get the hang of it. PRETTY MAGGIE MONEYEYES: Don't let the strange title deceive you. This is Ellison in TOP form. Ever wondered what gods reside at the casinos and what they have in mind. It's not PRETTY, I can assure you. ERNEST AND THE MACHINE GOD: An easy-to-visualize story about a girl in a car-accident and her meetings at a gas station. ADRIFT OFF THE ISLETS OF LANGERHANS . . . : Another award-winning story about a man trying to find the geographical location of his soul. THE DEATHBIRD: Still another award-winner. This one is Ellison's retelling of Genesis. This story has a very innovative structure to it. You'll see what I mean, when you buy this book.
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Format: Paperback
Harlan presents some stellar stories here about what modern gods might be like in what one would call a pessimistic, cynical outlook. He moves through such milieus as sci-fi, high fantasy and even urban fantasy through this book.

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.
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Format: Paperback
This collection groups nineteen of Ellison's stories dealing with subjects such as gods spirits and suchlike. In former times, people created numerous gods and spirits for just about every aspect of their lives. Gods for thunder the moon and the sea. Spirits and Ghosts living in caves, rivers etc. What if we still felt the need to invent and invoke such gods and spirits today? What would they be like? A god for machines? A spirit in a slot machine? A demon ruling over violent crime? These are the subjects that Ellison deals with in this collection of stories.
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.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I enjoy reading Harlan Ellison. This three star review is aimed strictly at the collection “Deathbird Stories”, and not directed at the author himself, as I will continue to read Ellison in the future. “Deathbird Stories” simply didn't do it for me. It was hit and miss. Half the stories moved me, inspired me, and the other half fell flat.

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".
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