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Phoenix Without Ashes (1975)

Phoenix Without Ashes (1975)

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3.44 of 5 Votes: 3
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0861300033 (ISBN13: 9780861300037)
fawcett publications

About book Phoenix Without Ashes (1975)

So, a long while back, over a year ago, I got a copy of a godawful book for free. This book was called Low Red Moon and it was a cheapo Twilight rip-off. Girl falls in love with Werewolf who may have killed her parents, but it turns out that he’s a prosecuted minority and – okay, that sounds a hell of a lot better than the book actually was. In any case, reading this awful book gave me an idea for a blog. I would find books for less than $2, and read them, and review them. Every book that I got for free or almost no money, I would devour, and pick apart, and mock, in the hopes of getting Internets Famous, or at least of making someone laugh. (This would, of course, exclude books that I got for free because they were gifts, or ARCs. Low Red Moon was a copy that was damaged out by my place of employment, partly because they hadn’t ordered it, and partly because no one wanted to buy it.) So I went out to used bookstores and raided their discount racks for anything under $2. I found a couple of truly bewildering treasures – I still have to read the double novel by none other than Ed Wood. But much to my chagrin, I found that many of the books I got were actually… Good.Phoenix Without Ashes by Harlan Ellison and Edward Bryant is a brilliant book. The book is in fairly good condition. There are notes scribbled in a lot of the margins – illegible, inane notes, which, when readable, are only stating “this is what happen son this page.” But the cover is intact; the words are all readable. The cover price is 95 cents, and I got it for a dollar. I feel like I should have had to pay more for it. Price variance over time is weird.Phoenix Without Ashes was written by Edward Bryant, based on the pilot of the same name for a television show called The Starlost. The Starlost was meant to be a sprawling television series headed by Harlan Ellison. But between the network executives’ meddling and a writer’s guild strike, the project fell to pieces. The book opens with a vitriol and bile filled essay by Ellison about the whole experience, which is at least on par with the novel itself in entertainment/interest value.The basic idea behind The Starlost was defined as the “enclosed universe”. It was about this huge spaceship with all of these individual bubble-worlds populated by particular cultures and sub-cultures. It was an ark, carrying the cultures away from a doomed Earth. They had communication with each other, up until some point 500 years before the story starts, when a disaster separated them, leading them all to, over the generations, forget that they had once been a space-faring civilization who lived on an actual planet. The pocket worlds each think that they are the entirety of the world (though, with so many of them, I’m sure a number would have known the truth). The ship is also doomed to destruction in 5 years. The show would have been about the efforts of those who accidentally came upon the truth to save the ship. They would have made contact with other pocket worlds, tried to convince them of the truth, and explored the ship.Since the show only produced one reportedly terrible season, all we really have to go on of this original vision is this solitary book. (And, apparently, a graphic novel of the same name and plot released last March by IDW). And let me tell you, the show should have been amazing. It should have been LOST, except in space, and with actual plot-destinations in mind throughout the whole thing. It should have been the perfect sci-fi series. As soon as I had finished reading the book – whose prose is excellent, but overall unremarkable – I wanted to know so much more about the universe. When I found out that there were no more books in the series, I actually considered finding the television show, just to have a taste of the world Ellison had built. I’ll doubtless buy the graphic novel soon enough. I want to know more about these characters. What side did Garth end up on? What were the other Enclosed Worlds on the ark? Where was the plot going to end up?It’s not fair that such a brilliant concept got cut down the way it did. I had a little rant about how desperately I wanted more of The Starlost, but when looking for the links to populate this post with, I discovered something beautiful. Something killer. Ark, a 9-episode web remake on Hulu. Tears, guys. I have tears. The Starlost rose from its ashes, to produce a Phoenix. I’ll watch it tomorrow. http://derivativewafflehouse.wordpres...

PrécisttDevon is a loner in the town of Cypress Corners, an agrarian community with Amish values and beliefs. Instead of God, it is the Creator they follow and their world is 100 kilometers wide. Devon has dreams of things he cannot explain and questions the elders and even the Creator, especially over the issue of the girl he loves being already committed to his one friend Garth. His chastisement by the elders led by Micah ends up with his banishment to the hill country.tWhile there, he discovers a portal to a strange place, and discovers that Cypress Corners is only one of many such worlds. All part of a giant spacecraft built hundreds of years to escape a dying Earth. However, there is a problem with the ship and Devon has to warn the People of Cypress Corners so they can try to stop the impending disaster. Of course, to the simple people of Cypress Corners this is demon talk and he is not believed. tIn the end, he realizes he will have to try on his own with only Rachel by his side.ProtagonisttDevonAntagonisttElder MicahWhat I likedtThe smooth pace of the story and the excellent development of Devon as he realizes the truth of his world. The science is well done and the enclosed worlds theme is well portrayed.What I didn’t liketThe dream sequences to me seemed contrived. I know it helps Devon question his world and makes his discovery less traumatic but I would rather have had him discover some lost manual or such as a way to explain this.Final CommentttThis is an adaptation of the pilot script Harlan Ellison wrote for the failed television series The Starlost. Having seen the show recently at Worldcon, I can say that while the sets were inaccurate and the story changed somewhat, it did capture the feel of the story as it appears in the book. Unfortunately, the series took a turn away from the arc that Ellison proposed, probably one of the many reasons it failed.tFor those of you who are interested in the way series are put together and how a writer often struggles to realize his vision, the introduction by Ellison is worth the price of the book. My main regret is that as far as I know, this is the only novelization of the series and that the story Harlan wanted to tell is not completed.

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Another example of how the folks with money don't really understand good SF. The script was the pilot for a series(in the beginning a miniseries) and if they hadn't royally screwed Mr. Ellison, he would have produced a superior series for them.He walked away and put in his pen name, Cordwainer Bird, to let fans know this wasn't his show anymore.What came out was a hilariously bad series, further blackening the eyes of SF television to people who didn't understand the genre.This was a novelization of Ellison's script by Bryant and a long introduction by Ellison explaining the whole turgid mess that appeared on television.

In 1973, Harlan Ellison wrote a pilot script “Phoenix Without Ashes” which he hoped would launch a groundbreaking 8-episode science fiction miniseries on television. Instead, due to repeated mismanagement and interference from the producers, it became one of the worst series ever—the now infamous THE STARLOST, which lasted only one season on NBC/CTV.Ellison quit the project before the first episode was filmed. The actual show that aired was much different than what he wrote. (His successor Ben Bova eventually quit the production as well, and later wrote the comedic novel THE STARCROSSED loosely based on their experiences.)Twenty-seven years later, this graphic novel finally gives us a visual glimpse—much grander than could have been done in 1973 anyway—of what could have been. The story hews close to the original script; the artwork is bold and memorable. If this story had been filmed correctly with high production values, good acting, and writers who understood science fiction, this could have been an excellent show, much better than its contemporaries like Battlestar Galactica and Buck Rogers. Unfortunately, the narrative here feels very thin, and it ends with all the major story lines unresolved. This makes sense—a tv pilot is supposed to establish characters, introduce a central conflict, and then leave the viewer wanting to tune it next week. For the graphic novel, I wish Ellison had finished the entire original 8-episode arc that was envisioned. Without it, rather than a complete and satisfying tale, this is essentially nothing more than a wistful longing for what could have been.This story is also available in other formats: Ellison and his friend Edward Bryant adapted the script into a novel in 1975, which has recently come back into print as a Kindle book. The novel does a better job developing the characters’ relationships and motivations, but the comic book omits the book’s hokey dream sequences and one awkward superfluous death scene at the end. Ellison has also reprinted the teleplay itself a few times, most recently in HARLAN ELLISON’S BRAIN MOVIES VOLUME 2.
—Craig Childs

First off, let me tell you that I didn't finish this book. For two reasons. One, the introduction by Harlan Ellison, which was brilliant, gave too much away about the story (even if the story was a mini-series that floundered back in the day). And two, Ellison didn't write this. He came up with the premise, but Edward Bryant wrote the novel. Now I have nothing against Mr. Bryant, but his writing didn't scintillate me enough to want to keep on reading. Perhaps had I skipped the introduction (as I normally do) and waited to read it after the story, things would be different. As is though, the story was blase with writing to match. WASTE OF TIME (perhaps don't read the introduction and you may enjoy this one more)

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