Friday, September 23, 2016

FFB: The Man with Nine Lives -- Harlan Ellison

The Man with Nine Lives is the other half of the Ace Double Book I mentioned last week.  When I was a youth, I followed two young SF writers in particular.  Robert Silverberg was one.  Harlan Ellison was the other.  Silverberg was selling everywhere, from the low-paying digests to the top ones.  Ellison was mostly stuck in the lower- to middle-paying ones, but for some reason, maybe because he was just starting out, his work had a lot of appeal to me.  I shudder to admit this, but I once listed The Man with Nine Lives as one of my favorite SF novels.  Rereading it now, I can see that it's a pretty bad book.

Ellison isn't a novelist.  He's best at shorter lengths, and that's what he's stuck to for most of his career.  This book isn't actually a novel.   It's a sort of a fixup of a previously published novelette and short story with a couple of more related stories and a framework tossed in.   A man named Cal Emory is seeking revenge against a powerful guy, Paul Lederman, and to get it he has to undergo the "nine lives" of the title.  Lots of adventures ensue.  

The good news is that Ellison is Ellison, so nothing is exactly standard.  As in "Run for the Stars," which I discussed last week, the protagonist is a coward.  He doesn't undergo the changes that the previous one does, but he does learn and change.  So the ending might not be the one you expect.

The Man with Nine Lives is a minor book by a major writer.  Not anything to go out of the way to find, but an interesting historical document and fun in its own way.  Certainly not one of my favorite SF novels now, though.  


George said...

I was a big fan of Harlan Ellison and Robert Silverberg back in the Sixties, too. I loved ACE Doubles that featured a single writer with a novel on one side and a set of short stories like A TOUCH OF INFINITY on the other side.

Jeff Meyerson said...

You get an interesting perspective on Harlan in Silverberg's introductions in the new collection of his pulp stories. They were friends back then, and when Harlan went into the Army, Silverberg got even more writing work to help fill the holes.

Rick Robinson said...

I had this one, and honestly thought the cover was the best part. But then, I wasn't that much of an Ellison fan - nor Silverberg, though I did like his Valentine's Castle - so it is no surprise this didn't seem like the cream rising to the top. At this point in time I was reading Heinlein, Poul Anderson, Murray Leinster instead.

Todd Mason said...

I think this is a little unfair to Ellison's rather good crime novel SPIDER KISS (also published as ROCKABILLY)...but he hasn't tried to write too many other novels so far...he's not so fond, himself, of DOOMSMAN, and PHOENIX WITHOUT ASHES is mostly Edward Bryant's novel from Ellison's original script for the pilot of THE STARLOST. Though, for my part, I've been meaning to read the source novella slightly expanded to create this novel, "The Sound of the Scythe" for nearly forty years. I've gathered that original form, published in AMAZING in 1959, is a bit better.