This hardcover reprint of the 1955 original paperback showcases the young, raw, sometimes clumsy Ellison, a writer who hasn’t quite developed the storytelling or prose style he will soon become known for. Unusual for Ellison, these stories aren’t science fiction (or, more broadly, speculative fiction). Set during the 1950s, the stories focus on issues that were on the author’s mind at the time: discrimination, oppression, racial hatred, and other injustices. Where Ellison would later use the sf genre as a means of exploring these issues from other (sometimes allegorical) angles, here he tackles them head-on, with mixed results: some of the stories are graceful and revelatory, while others come off a bit ham-fisted, as though the author sought to punch the issue right in the nose rather than—as he would later in his career—dance around it a bit first. Definitely for the author’s legion of fans (who will forgive a little clunkiness from the guy, who was, after all, just starting out).
This review originally appeared in Booklist, March 2013.