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I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream (1984)

I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream (1984)

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4.39 of 5 Votes: 3
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0441363954 (ISBN13: 9780441363957)
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About book I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream (1984)

Harlan Ellison is an asshole.No really. He is a sexist, condescending, cocky, arrogant prick. His sense of superiority oozes out of every one of the stories' introductions in this collection. Wherever there is a female character, she is portrayed as weak, whorish or manipulative. In the intro to "Pretty Maggie Moneyeyes" he casually refers to the woman that inspired the story as someone who he wanted to lay, but didn't get an opportunity to. He constantly talks about his writing as if it was God's gift to science fiction.Harlan Ellison is an asshole.However, he is an amazing writer. I had long given up on science fiction due to how much garbage there is in the genre, so when I picked up "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream" on a friend's recommendation I didn't expect much. I was pleasantly surprised. Ellison's writing has a natural flow to it, very rarely feeling stilted or forced. His story telling is hallucinogenic in quality; each story in this collection reads like an acid trip. Plots swirl and contort. Characters pass through realities both familiar and foreign like they were just walking to the store, unquestioning, accepting of the alien nature of the worlds around them. Everything about this collection has a dreamlike feel to it, always just real enough to fool the senses into not recognizing the facade around them. The title story I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream starts the collection off with a bang as it tells the story of a cruel, hateful AI that eternally torments the last five humans left alive. It perfectly embodies that hallucinatory quality that I mentioned before; AM manipulates the five poor peoples' DNA, grants them immortality just so it can torture them indefinitely, sets them against giant beasts of legend, all while displaying control over matter and reality that is Godlike in nature. Lonelyache is the story of a man who's depression and regret over the failure of his marriage drives him to adultery, until his sins come together to quite literally haunt him. Delusion For a Dragon Slayer is easily the trippiest of the tales as it weaves through a parable about the afterlife and the horrid beast that hides in the heart of all men.This is not to say that this collection is perfect. There is a reason why I rated it three stars and not four or five. Not all the stories are worth a second read; Big Sam Was My Friend plods along, and while it makes a poignant point at the end about selfishness and selflessness, it's not quite enough to save it from its boring, plodding pace. Eyes of Dust is a similar situation. Again, it hits home with its commentary on vanity, but the ending is convoluted at best, leaving the metaphor mixed and confusing. And the rampant sexism is very hard to ignore, especially in World of the Myth where Ellison comes just short of justifying rape because a woman flirts or teases a man with no other way to release himself sexually. Seriously I cannot express just how anti-woman this book is, you just have to read it to see what I mean. And his inflated sense of self in the introductions is very off putting. I understand that it's okay to feel good about you work, but Ellison's conceit is obnoxious at best and almost comes to overshadow the stories themselves, particularly when they deal with the dangers of being arrogant and selfish.So while these stories were, for the most part, exceptionally written, I don't think I will be reading any of them again (except for the title piece, which is easily one of the top ten best science fictions that I've ever read). Ellison's fables, while arguably insightful and thought provoking, suffer greatly from the offensively blatant misogyny and Ellison's own ego. It was worth a read, but borrow it from a library before you decide to buy it.

It is a terrible mistake to assume that everybody else will love — or at least like — your favorite things, whatever you consider to be an all-time great. This is the most important lesson I have taken away from I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream. I recommended this story to a smart and discerning friend, foolishly expecting her to at least be impressed with it. After she has finished it I was mortified to be informed that she actually hated it! As I value her opinion on literary matters greatly it makes me doubt my own taste and judgment. Still, at the end of the day if you love something you have to stick to your guns, don't you? In cases like this there is no better explanation than that we can't all like the same things. I haven't read this story for years, so I decided to reread it expressly for the purpose of writing this review, it only takes about 30 minutes to read after all. I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream is a an extremely bleak post-apocalypse and dystopian story. In the future depicted in this story, mankind is ruled by a demented and extremely cruel A.I. overlord. Mankind, in this case, consists of just five people; one girl and four men, imprisoned underground within the mega-computer itself. The rest of humanity have already been wiped out by the crazed AI, the cause of its insanity is best left unrevealed here. The five humans are saved by the AI for its sadistic amusement, to assuage its craving for revenge against mankind for a perceived mortal offense. The five humans are tortured, debased and humiliated daily. They are also kept alive and made practically immortal to prolong their suffering indefinitely.This is a horrifying and disturbing story. My friend mentioned that the prose is leaden and I suppose it may be, but I find that Harlan Ellison's narrative packs a real punch. The ending is particularly creepy and unforgettable. I don't know what it says about me that I am in awe of such a nasty story, I just love stories that have a strong psychological or emotional impact. It also raises the issue of our over-reliance on technology, a theme it shares with E.M. Forster’s The Machine Stops, a much more gentle apocalypse. There is also the matter of allowing our creation to go out of control for the sake of our greed or lust for power.If you want to read this classic sci-fi story online just Google the title. You will probably find it in a few seconds. I doubt it is in the public domain so I'd better not post a link. At the risk of recommending something you will hate, I highly recommend this story. I never learn!_______________________Note: I'm just reviewing the one story, not the entire anthology in this book. I don't have the book!

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This is incredibly ghastly, very chilling. The true meaning of the word horror. I would have given it 5-stars for being a perfect horror story, except I can't say I enjoyed it. Since this is by Ellison, I'm sure the message of the story was supposed to be how man's deeds will eventually get him in the end, how we bring our own misery upon ourselves or whatever, but to personify this message in the form of five human beings being tortured for eternity wasn't something I could stomach. Humankind, for all their flaws and misdeeds, are also capable of pity and mercy. It was a captivating read, but I would venture to say that Ellison went a little too far.
—Nada Elfeituri

In years past, I read part of another collection of Harlan Ellison ("Deathbird Stories" I think) and found it so rough and ugly, I put it aside... and swore to never read him again. Forward to recent days when I found a used collection of several Ellison books in paperback for a pittance. I remembered the perfect Star Trek episode he penned, and decided to try him again. Oh boy. This guy is a piece of work; I cannot think of a more opposite pov in the world from my own. But his stories are unforgettable. There isn't a bad story in this book! I can only compare it to the Guy de Maupassant marathon read I did in past. His ugliness enraged me, but I'll be damned if I won't read everything just to prove I CAN. If he can take it, I can too. :)
—Megan S Spark

Holy crap, talk about disturbing.Sentient computers are nothing new, although this was written in the 60s so they were kind of a newer concept back then. Still, if I were to pit Skynet against AM, I would definitely put my money on AM. Skynet is cool and all, but it lacks something...cruelty and pure, seething malice. For over a hundred years, this sentient computer called AM kept five humans alive just so he could torment them in unique and horrible ways. There's a lot of general weirdness going on in this classic, but you can read it in an evening so if you have the time I definitely recommend giving it a go. The only thing I wished to know more about was Ted - I was still a little confused about him. It wasn't entirely clear if he truly was the only human that wasn't altered. Maybe I missed it. I know he was extra paranoid, but he seemed like a saint by the end of the book and I didn't like him. At all.I knocked off a start for this reason, and because it wasn't long enough. Ugggh Harlan you should have written an entire novel on this concept.

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