Harlan Elison: Paingod and Other Delusions

A selection of great SF tales

The stories in this collection were originally published in magazines between 1956 and 1965. Unlike much SF of that era, they have not lost their edge.

In part, this is down to Ellison's literary style which was head and shoulders above the majority of SF at that time. Thus today, when editors demand better writing, these stories can still satisfy. The other reason is that Ellison has an uncanny vision of the future which does not easily get outdated by the events of a few decades.

The stories contain lots of new ideas and the author uses the flexibility of the SF format to good effect.

This highlight must of course be "Repent, Harlequin!" said the Ticktockman which tells of a world rigidly controlled with everyone forced to conduct their affairs to maximise the efficiency of society. I think that this is one of the finest SF shorts ever written and it is certainly the best known of all the stories here.

Having praised that story, I should say that, with the exception of the final tale, "Deeper than the Darkness", I really liked everything here. They range from the sorrowful "Bright Eyes" to the wryly funny story "The Crackpots".

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My rating

Eight out of ten. A great read.

Detailed Contents

A being is given the job of Paingod, his task, to dispense pain to the whole universe. One day, he finds out why this is necessary. 7/10

"Repent, Harlequin!" said the Ticktockman
How can a ruthlessly well organised society tolerate the activities of the Harlequin? The Ticktockman sets out to put a stop to his capers. Brilliant. 10/10

The Crackpots
On a planet specially reserved for "Crackpots", the rulers of the galaxy keep watch but who is really in control? 6/10

Bright Eyes
Mankind wipes itself out in one last fiery apocalypse. Leaving a lone, ancient observer to sorrow at the loss of a world. 8/10

The Discarded
A catastrophic new illness on Earth creates a minority who are thrown out of society. But then, mankind realises that it needs help from The Discarded. Should they trust normal people or will they be betrayed once more? Of course, if you know Ellison, you can guess. 7/10

Wanted in Surgery
Doctors are replced by wonderfully adept robots which are able to outperform humans by an enormous margin. But, there is a problem. 6/10

Deeper that the Darkness
A man with strange powers is pressured to use them for great evil and resists. This seemed to rather fizzle out at the end. 4/10