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Approaching Oblivion (1985)

Approaching Oblivion (1985)

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4.02 of 5 Votes: 1
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0312940181 (ISBN13: 9780312940188)
st martins press

About book Approaching Oblivion (1985)

One of the lesser known Ellison collections, it remains a favorite that I recommend to everyone. the dedication itself is thought provoking, but the stories are what Ellison is known for and in this book we find the ideas coming fiercely and at fever pitch. One story, short enough to maintain a significant sting and relevant to all, is the work "Ecowareness" - a story of the Earth waking up from a nap to find that we have disturbed its slumber, so it starts relentlessly wiping us out so it can have peace and quiet again. I imagine this was written with tongue solidly in cheek, but it still maintains a sense of not only social commentary, but the commentary on the human condition that Ellison willingly throws out in his works. The other tales are equally unique and dangerously relevant as the one I describe and while every one of Ellison's tales may not be your cup of tea, I would hate to meet the person who could not find one quoteable line or thought provoking story in this work. Ellison himself says he conceived the book originally in the 1970's as a call to action, but by the time it was published, it became a work that catalogued his stories of failed rebellions. Some stories are heart wrenching - "One Life, Furnished in Early Poverty" - is the story about a man who has the opportunity to travel in time to comfort a younger version of himself and ease the pain of being a bullied child, yet he finds that he can not do it, there is no escaping from the suffering he had to endure as a child to be the man he is now. From the dark humor of "Ecowareness" to the tone of "One Life, Furnished in Early Poverty" that is ever more important in these days when bullying is becoming a hot button topic, the book provokes - or some would say demands - thoughts from the reader. It is a favorite in my collection, so much so that I have the original copy I found at a library discard sale but have purchased another copy due to the wear I have committed on my first copy. There is, in no case, a bad collection of Ellison's work if you are willing to be challenged, engaged, and entertained in one singular moment.

Hard as it can be to describe an Ellison story, you feel you must try if only to say something else to a friend besides, “You must READ this book!”No. That’s not quite true. I would hesitate to recommend this book to a friend. There’s a palpable chill lying over these tales and visible traces of anger in quite a few. Even in “I’m Looking for Kadak”, a tale that strives for humor in every Yiddish-inflected sentence, there is a decided grimness as alien Jews prepare to sit shivah to a dying planet.Speaking of humor, only two of these stories really possesses any: the aforementioned Yiddish tale and “Erotophobia”. Unfortunately, the former tale creaks in its forced Borscht Belt Jewish comedy tone, managing to wring only wry smiles as we follow its hapless protagonist across the surface of his world while he searches for the titular Kadak. It’s “Erotophobia” that contains genuine humor as it details a man afflicted with the ability to incite erotic love in anyone he encounters. (Oy, you should be so lucky.)But Ellison retains his ability to shake the senses and rattle the nerves. He has a way with metaphor, storyline and characterization that is all his own and creating the ability to shock, stun or wring your heartstrings. His main characters (usually male) are people forced into extraordinary circumstances who then flail or lash out in an effort to make sense of it all. Whether they happily subside into mediocrity or scale the heights of infamy or fame, they and the stories they inhabit leave a person feeling decidedly queer after it.Read this book. Put it away for a few years and read it again. It is a book worth reading repeatedly if only to see how excellent it remains even after you’ve grown and changed into an alien creature.

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Without getting in the weeds of praise, I'll go ahead and break my normal rule, to wait until I've traversed an artistic work no less than two times before I name it a favorite out of fresh enthusiasm, and laud "Hindsight: 480 Seconds" as the best sci-fi story I've ever read. I'm more of a horror guy. Science fiction isn't normally my bag because science, well, I'm not a "how" guy. The "what if?" game doesn't appeal to me in the practical sense. Me being a horror guy and not a sci-fi guy, I still enjoyed many of these stories immensely. Some lost me due to the futuristic sci-fi tropes, which I'm sure pleased Mr. Ellison's devoted sci-fi fans, but even those I finished and appreciated as well-told stories.Good read. Would recommend for the badass introduction alone. Ah, I almost forgot about those first few pages. They seem so long ago when you've reached the end: I don't think I've ever read so bold and invigorating an introduction to a work of fiction. Whether he deserves his asshole rep or not, Mr. Ellison seems as abrasive as any man or woman would who so loves the world and the possibilities it affords its greedy, careless, and above all selfish inhabitants.
—D.S. West

Ah, I enjoyed this collection of Ellison better than the last. These were some consistently fresh and clever stories one after another. There was a strange marketing disconnect, however, in the marketing for the book. Ellison gives one of his trademark introductions about his contempt and sadness for the state of the world that are like blood spraying from an open chest wound -- so unbelievably raw -- that ends with something like "and if you see me weeping sometimes, it's because you killed me too, you f*ers."With that kind of naked emotional power in the introduction, the publishers of this version saw fit to include a quote on the cover to get people to buy the book. Who could they get to comment on one of the most influential writers of his time?Richard Dawson, host of Family Feud."Good Author! Good Author!"

Part of my mission to go back and read books I'd left unfinished for no good reason. This was one of the featured selections in the very first month of my Science Fiction Book Club subscription (in 1974). The collection is a bit raggedy and uneven, but sometimes brilliant and bold and moving. Ellison takes risks, and I admire the effort even when it doesn't work and sometimes marvel at the results when it does. This was from a time when "sci-fi" was morphing into "speculative fiction," making its bid as literature, experimental, political, graphic, and profound. It also brought back the whole time period to me, but that's another story...

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