Mefisto in Onyx, Harlan Ellison

It’s nice to see Ellison returning to stories with plot and character, after the indefinable “Eidolon” and “The Man Who Rowed Christopher Columbus Ashore.” Ellison states that this story took ten years to write, and it shows an affinity with that Ellison of ten years ago–passionate, filled with righteous anger, and burning up the pages with his rage. “Mefisto” is the story of a serial killer, who may or may not be the person we think he is, and of the District Attorney who prosecuted him, then fell in love with him and believes him to be innocent now, and, most importantly, with Rudy, who can jaunt (shades of AlfredĀ Bester) into people’s minds (i.e., read them). A love triangle made in hell, made even more unholy by the amount of killing gone before, and the possible miscarriage of justice. Hey, let’s face it, this story has everything–so why aren’t I wild about it? Can it be that Ellison’s jocular, biting, ironic style has staled? Maybe it’s just dated, more a product of the radical sixties than the disturbed ’90s. Ellison has updated his references, but the manner is still the same as can be found in “The Whimper of Whipped Dogs.” And he’s damned clever, but unsurprising, since we expect something of a twist from him. With Ellison, I have so many expectations, and am easily critical. Under the by-line of any other author, I might be raving; from Ellison, I expect so much more.

[Finished 31 October 1993]

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