By: Harlan Ellison
Type: Short story collection
Angry Candy is a typically thorny collection of roses from the garden at Ellison Wonderland. Ellison discovered, while putting this book together in the mid-eighties, that all of the stories dealt in some way with death. He traced this back to the fact that many of his friends and acquaintances died over a short period of time, and his bitterness and anger was manifesting itself in the form of these writings.
Many of the stories in Angry Candy are typically shocking: “Broken Glass,” “Soft Monkey” and “Quicktime” use sex, violence, bigotry and selfishness to wake us up. “Chained to the Fast Lane in the Red Queen’s Race” and “The Region Between” feature non-standard storylines and, in the case of the latter, a non-standard interface to the story. Other stories, like “Paladin of the Lost Hour” or “Laugh Track” touch us in the center of our humanity. Ellison has never been afraid to stretch the boundaries of the acceptable, and the thematic subject matter of this book makes for excellent stretching.
Something in “Paladin” set off a round of soul searching in me, and by the time I finished reading the story, I was in tears. I remained on the edge of crying for several days. When a short story can do that, I consider it pretty damn good. I rank “Paladin” up there with classic Ellison stories like “Jeffty Is Five” and “One Life, Furnished In Early Poverty.”
For this reason, it is a good idea NOT to read Ellison books straight through in one sitting. First of all, it can cause a mental overload because his writing style is unbelievably succinct. He draws from a wide range of metaphors and knowledge to create unique combinations and images. Simply absorbing those combinations and marvelling at how well they enhance his storyline is enough to keep your brain busy. Then there’s the emotional overload. I cried during and after “Paladin” because the writing struck a chord in my heart that triggered an emotional release. Much of Ellison’s material is emotionally charged. Combine this emotional content with the nearly constant stream of mental images and you begin to see why it is best to take Ellison in doses of only a couple of short stories a day.
Read this book. Period. If you can’t handle some of the squeamish stuff, skip it and read on. You will find something to like about this book unless you are so straight-laced that you can’t see past your own blinders. (If this is the case, that’s an even greater reason to read Ellison!)