Friday, September 16, 2016

FFB: A Touch of Infinity -- Harlan Ellison

A Touch of Infinity is half of a 1960 Ace Double Book, and it's Harlan Ellison's first short story collection.  It contains his second published story ("Life Hutch") and five others.  All of them are what I'd call apprentice work, not really very good but obviously the work of a guy with talent.  They're nothing like the stories Ellison would go on to write just a few years later, but they're not just the standard SF stories of the time, either.

For example, the first one, "Run for the Stars," while a straightforward adventure story full of nonstop action, also features a protagonist who's an admitted coward.  He has a bomb planted in his stomach, and it's his job to run from the enemy while the rest of the people on his planet make an escape.  He goes through some rapid changes throughout the story, and the ending is a snapper that works pretty well if you accept the rest of it.

"Life Hutch" finds a man who's ship has been wrecked but who makes it to the title spot, a place where he can be healed and signal for a ride home.  Or he could if not for the malfunctioning robot that's trying to kill him.

"The Sky is Burning" is supposedly a "different" kind of early story, and I guess it is.  I didn't buy it's reason for mass suicide though.

"Final Trophy" is about a Hemingway-esque hunter in the far future and his final trophy.  I don't think you'll have much trouble guessing what the trophy is, but the story gives us a logical extension of the big-game hunting philosophy, I think. 

"Blind Lightning" has a scientist on an alien world captured by a native who plans to eat him.  An amusing problem to be worked out, and a pretty good story.

"Back to the Drawing Board" is another robot story, but with a kind of Ellison social twist.  Another one I didn't buy but thought was okay.

Introduction by Harlan Ellison
“Run for the Stars” (Science Fiction Adventures, June 1957)
“Back to the Drawing Boards” (Fantastic Universe, August 1958)
“Life Hutch” (If, April 1956)
“The Sky Is Burning” (If, August 1958)
“Final Trophy” (Super-Science Fiction, June 1957)

“Blind Lightning” (Fantastic Universe, June 1956)


Todd Mason said...

I think "Life Hutch" is the only one I've read so far...shall have to Gi Look to see what the other half of the double is...

Richard Robinson said...

I've not read this, but certainly Dangerous Visions was ample proof of his story telling chops.

Mathew Paust said...

Older I get the more fascinated I am by nascent works of authors I've come to respect in their maturity. Ellison is one.