Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Blood's a Rover, by Harlan Ellison

 Confession time: I've never read a Harlan Ellison book before.

 I've read the handful of comics that he's written, and I'm well aware of his status as a living legend, a titan or the written word.....but I'm also aware of the tons of stories floating around about what a jerk he can be, and that has most certainly colored my perception of the man. I've dipped in and out of his work through the years, and nothing has ever particularly grabbed me. That, coupled with my personal impression of the man, has caused me to set aside, unfinished, everything of his that I've ever started.

 I have vivid memories of stumbling across a bizarre film on channel 9 in New York City called A BOY AND HIS DOG. I was probably 10 or so, and, while I didn't get to watch the whole thing, what I saw stuck with me for over three decades. As I grew older, I became aware of the genesis of that film, but I never sought out the stories that introduced the teen-aged scavenger Vic and his telepathic dog, Blood. Their status as parts of a whole that would, in all likelihood, never be completed, kept my interest from sparking.

 Enter Subterranean Press, and the as-complete-as-we're-likely-to-get hardcover BLOOD'S A ROVER. Editor Jason Davis' introductory note, NEARLY FIFTY YEARS IN THE POST-APOCALYPTIC WASTES,  gives readers a brief history of the Vic & Blood stories, and explains the genesis of each tale. A novella, a short story or two, a script for an aborted television adaptation, bits and pieces from a comic-book adaptation, a brief conversation between our main characters, the wit and wisdom of the titular telepathic canine....all this and more has been masterfully complied into a beautiful package by Ellison, Davis, and Subterranean Press, and I'm happy to say that not only did I finish this book, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

 Having never really encountered Vic and Blood before, I was a little surprised to see just how ruthless and savage Vic, a teen-aged scavenger in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, can be. He thinks nothing of murdering and raping as he, led by the much smarter Blood, roams the land in search of weapons, food, and sex. Ellison populates their world with a colorful cast of background characters, but the relationship between this boy and his dog overshadows everything. The banter, the love/hate relationship...all pitch perfect.

 If I had any complaints with this book, it would be the exclusion of the Richard Corben graphic adaptation (Which I wasn't really expecting to see here, but it would have been nice.), and the fact that, after all we go through with Vic and Blood, their story is still incomplete, and will likely stay that way. I could easily have read another five hundred pages, and I closed the book thinking "And what happened next???" Don't get me wrong: This is a complete book. There is no cliffhanger....but, as any true storyteller will, Ellison left me wanting more. Excellent stuff, highly recommended.

 BLOOD'S A ROVER earns eight out of ten telepathic dogs:

 Subterranean Press provided a review copy.

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