Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Partners in Wonder: Review

Books by Harlan Ellison are a trip. You never know if it's a trip through Wonderland or a trip through the darkest regions of human nature, but it's a trip. Partners in Wonder (1971) takes the unpredictable Ellison and teams him up with some of the biggest names in science fiction at the time--including Robert Silverberg, Roger Zelazny, Theodore Sturgeon, Robert Sheckley, Ben Bova and more to produce an even more out-of-this-world trip than usual.

It was interesting to see how Ellison's style would mesh with other equally strong (and sometimes head-strong) writers. As one might expect, sometimes it worked really well and sometimes...not so much. Ellison is quite proud of all the stories (naturally), though even he admits that some of the match-ups work better than others. For instance, he tells us in the intro to "The Power of the Nail" that neither he nor Samuel R. Delaney felt that particular story was successful. (I find myself in agreement with the authors). He also tells us that a collaboration with Isaac Asimov was supposed to happen, but never quite came to fruition. Now, there's a match-up I would have liked to have read.★★ and 3/4 for the whole collection.

My favorites are the two stories he and Robert Bloch wrote as follow-ups to Bloch's famous "Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper" which aren't really a collaboration so much as conversation through story. Also in the favorites:

"Runesmith" by Ellison & Theodor Sturgeon: about a man who uses his dark arts to inadvertently bring about the destruction of civilization--only to find that he's been the tool of darker forces than he realizes.

"The Human Operators" by Ellison & A. E. Van Vogt (easily the best of the stories): In which just enough men and women are kept alive by their Ships to keep the machines in repair. And as soon as they get old enough to be dangerous, they are killed off. Will humans find a way to take back control?

"The Song the Zombie Sang" by Ellison & Robert Silverbeg: In which a concert musician really outlasts his reputation.

"Come to Me Not in Winter's White" by Ellison & Roger Zelazny: A physicist who is the world's leading expert on time uses all his knowledge and resources to bend time to his will in order to save the love of his life. But will he lose her in the process?

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