Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Phoenix Without Ashes by Edward Bryant & Harlan Ellison

(pb; 1975)

From the back cover:

"The Starlost: 2785 A.D.

"They had banished Devon from the world of Cypress Corners because he dared to challenge the Elders. And when he defied them again, they hunted him like an animal.

"Then Devon stumbled on a secret passage in the hills. His whole life changed in that moment. For Devon had accidentally discovered the giant ark that was ferrying not only Cypress Corners but all other Earth cultures to another planet.

"What Devon did not know was that there had been a terrible accident aboard the spaceship. The gear had been damaged, the crew dead. And the ark and all its worlds were now headed straight for destruction. . ."


Phoenix is a quick-paced, no-frills, good read. Between Bryant's straightforward, engaging writing and Ellison's genre-familiar, religious-bashing storyline, this works as a fun afternoon book, with a surprising, memorable-image finish that hinted at sequel Starlost novels (which never saw publication).

This novel is worth checking out from the library or owning, if it's a cheap buy.


Prior to the novel, this was a 16-episode low budget television series, originally airing stateside from September 22, 1973 to January 5, 1974.

Keir Dullea played Devon. Gay Rowan played Rachel. Robin Ward played Garth. William Osler played "Host". Jim Barron played "Garth's Father". Sterling Hayden played Old Jeremiah. John Colicos played The Governor. Gillie Fenwick played Old Abraham.

Walter Koenig played Oro (in two 1973 episodes).

Harlan Ellison created the storyline, which, to Ellison's horror, went from being an eight-segment mini-series to an overblown, chintzy television series. That's why he used his pseudonym Cordwainer Bird on the series and television film credits: he didn't want his name attached to the series after executives and other show personnel had reworked the series into something shoddy, wildly different than his original vision.

This novel was Ellison's attempt to redeem, and expose his readers to, his original concept/vision.

(For more details on this, read Ellison's "Introduction: Somehow, I Don't Think We're In Kansas, Toto", which is included in the novel - it's an acerbic cautionary tale, worth your time.)


In 1980, The Starlost: The Beginning, aired on American television. (The first half of this film is actually the first episode of the earlier series; the rest of this film is made up of other footage from other series episodes.)

Later that year, two sequel television films, The Starlost: The Alien Oro and The Starlost: Deception, aired stateside. Like their repackaged prequel, these two films were actually re-edited/combined episodes of the original 1973 series.


In 2010, Phoenix Without Ashes was published as an Ellison-penned comic book series. Alan Robinson illustrated the IDW-published series.


Anonymous said...

i used to be a HUGE Ellison fan ~ not that i stopped being a fan, but raising a child and working two jobs restricted my reading time. i'll have to go to his shelf in the library as soon as my vision clears up. thanks for the reminder. d

Steve Isaak said...

This wasn't one of Harlan's best-concept books, but it was fun.

I prefer Ellison's "The Beast Who Shouted Love at the Heart of World" (anthology) or "Approaching Oblivion" (another antho), but Edward Bryant executed Ellison's idea in an engaging, if basic-plot (remember this was based on a television mini-series idea) way.

Thanks for the continued support, comments, etc. =)

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