Ellison, Harlan. 1997. Slippage. New York: Houghton Mifflin.

Reviewed 02 April 1998

Slippage (cover) This collection of less-than-novels is worthwhile for one piece alone: the novella Mephisto in Onyx. However "handsome" the previous stand-alone edition, it wasn't an easy design to read. Mephisto is a truly chilling tale of mindreading and a descent into human depravity. It is also a cunning, subtle refutation of Anne Rice's vampires and their careers of evil. Ellison, as usual, successfully gets into the head of the misfit and presents a fascinating portait of power and ability gone wrong—and a truly ambiguous ending. Saying more would give too much away.

Other stories are interesting, but suffer by comparison with Mephisto (which ranks with "Repent, Harlequin, Said the Ticktockman," "The Deathbird," and two or three other stories as Ellison's best work). Ellison also manages to keep his usual snide, sarcastic, yet endearing self fully in view with both the introduction and the tale of his own first marriage. Sadly, these stories simply don't measure up to his best, either Mephisto or his excellent work in the late 1960s through about 1975. Nonetheless, these stories are still (with one exception) better than the run of the mill in Asimov's, Analog, Science Fiction Age, or Fantasy and Science Fiction over the last five years or so.

Overall rating: 4
Mr. Ellison's writing has oft mellowed with age. Fortunately, neither his wit nor imagination have dulled one bit.

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