Sunday, October 08, 2006

The Beast Who Shouted Love at the Heart of the World, by Harlan Ellison

(hb; 1969: story anthology)

Overall review: Landmark science fiction anthology, with every story distinctive from the others.

Review, story by story:

The Beast Who Shouted Love at the Heart of the World”: All-over-the-place, untempered (some might say unfocused) take on the odd, violent forms “love” takes. Interesting, different.

Along the Scenic Route”: The Road Warrior (1982) mated with Death Race 2000 (1975), with hints of Duel (1971). Excellent, memorable, neat li'l end-twist. Twilight Zone-ish.

Phoenix”: A four-man party embarks on a dangerous desert trek to prove a scientific theory (“chronoleakage... time has weight”) and to find a legendary place. Science fiction at its finest, with a cool play on a familiar theme.

Asleep: With Still Hands”: Two groups of psychically-joined people, bored with futuristic peace, battle for the privilege of snuffing out the omniscient man-machine (the Sleeper) who prevents mankind from wiping itself out. Good, if overlong, story.

Santa Claus Versus S.P.I.D.E.R.”: James Bond meets a not-so-Jolly St. Nick. Hoot of a 007 parody, this, with brain-washing alien symbiotes, LSD-ingesting procreating reindeers, zombies, semi-dated political jabs, and Santa getting it on. Ellison clearly had fun with this, as well you might, if you're into Ian Fleming's pop-iconic spy.

Try a Dull Knife”: Psychic vampires stalk an empath. Horrific, misanthropic, all-too-relatable. Fantabulous, and, again, worthy of a Twilight Zone episode.

The Pitll Pawob Division”: Neological, nifty bit about an alien, and the irritating, complaining creatures around him.

The Place With No Name”: While fleeing the law, a pimp (or “Entertainment Liaison Agent”) happens upon refuge in an surprising location. Good story.

White on White”: A lonely gigolo stumbles into love. Succinct, funnily romantic.

Run for the Stars”: A dream-dust junkie and human-bomb pawn for the human Resistance (Benno Tallant) fends off a Kyben (golden-fleshed alien) invasion, becoming somebody, something, else in the process. Action-loaded story, great end-twist.

Are You Listening?": A middle-aged man (Albert Winsocki) wakes up one morning and discovers that he's invisible to, and unheard by, those in the material world. Decent work.

S.R.O.”: When beautiful aliens appear in Times Square, a producer (Bart Chester) sees money in the making. Fitting finish, with a wonderful exit line.

Worlds to Kill”: Ironic, intriguing tale about a planet-crushing mercenary and his death machine.

Shattered Like a Glass Goblin”: H.P. Lovecraft, filtered through a psychedelic lens, this. A soldier returns from duty to 'The Hill,' a hippie crash pad, to get his girl back – but he gets more than he bargained for. Vivid, memorable read.

A Boy and His Dog”: 2034. Vic (a “solo,” a single man) and Blood (a “rover,” a mutt) who share a psychic link – as do all solo/rover pairs – find themselves in worlds of trouble when Vic falls in lust with a too-good-to-be-true woman (Quilla June). Classic, black-humored finish. One of the best stories in the collection.

The resulting film was released in America in November 1975. Don Johnson played Vic. Susanne Benton played Quilla June Holmes. Jason Robards played Lou Craddock. Tim McIntire voiced Blood. L.Q. Jones, who co-scripted the film, also co-produced, directed and played a porn actor within the film.

A remake of the film is scheduled for release in 2012. David Lee Miller, who's co-scripting the film with Harlan Ellison and original film director L.Q. Jones' input, is set to direct it.

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