cover image Angry Candy

Angry Candy

Harlan Ellison. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), $18.95 (324pp) ISBN 978-0-395-48307-7

Ellison's first book in six years, a harvesting of previously uncollected stories, is one of his best. The 17 stories are prefaced by ``The Wind Took Your Answer Away,'' a remembrance and homage to the author's friends who have died since 1985and there have been manywritten with sadness and rage. Indeed, death or mourning figure in many of these tales. ``Paladin of the Lost Hour'' is an overly sentimental tale of an old man who keeps guard over an exiled hour that must never enter the time stream, lest time itself come to an end, and how he passes on his stewardship. Funny and intriguing, ``Laugh Track'' features a magician of a sound editor who conjures up the soul of the long-dead favorite aunt of a Hollywood writer from the sound of her laughter on an ancient sitcom laugh track. ``Prince Mishkin, and Hold the Relish'' is an hilarious anecdotal short-short about messed-up relationships between men and women and Dostoyevski. The urban horror story ``Soft Monkey'' tells of a retarded homeless old woman who witnesses a murder and is in turn pursued by the killers. Ellison's stories have too often been mechanistic, thin ideas fleshed out in overwriting and sentimentality. In this collection he demonstrates he's moving beyond that, becoming more complex, relaxed and reaching for emotion rather than sentiment. (October)