Written by: Matthew J. Barbour
Harlan Ellison is among the greatest writers of the twentieth century. Don’t believe it? Ask him. He will tell you as much.
Ego aside, there is some validity in his claims. Ellison has won numerous awards and written some of the most widely read short stories in speculative fiction. His impact on horror, fantasy, and science fiction is clear. Many of the genre tropes which flood the market today were invented by the man.
Among his creations were the telepathically linked team of a boy, named Vic, and his dog, named Blood. Vic and Blood, the book published by Open Road Integrated Media, collects three stories about the duo including: “Eggsucker,” “A Boy and his Dog,” and “Run, Spot, Run.” While each is a standalone narrative, combined they form an extremely depressing tale of friendship and loss in the post-apocalypse.
“A Boy and his Dog” is the most famous of the three. In the story, the pair journey to a movie theater to watch a skin flick. During the film, Blood detects a woman. Vic and Blood follow the woman after the show. They are intent upon raping her, but find that in order to secure their prize, Vic and Blood must fight off a “roverpak,” also keen on taking the woman.
Guided by lust and revenge, Vic’s journey ultimately leads him to the underground community of Topeka. Protected from the bombs dropped during World War IV, the citizens have formed an idyllic society based on wholesome American values. Vic can’t stand it and plots his escape. Central to this plan is the underlying question: “do you know what love is?” The answer is expected and yet, surprising at the same time.
Ellison’s handling of the subject matter is masterful. It is a gritty future taken to absurd levels and contrasted against conservative values. The narrative boils the human condition down into its most fundamental level. Love and loss is something both above ground anarchists and underground fundamentalists can understand, but view in very different ways.
The remaining stories of “Eggsucker” and “Run, Spot, Run” bookend the narrative and expand upon the universe. This universe has been incredibly influential upon speculative fiction as a whole. Franchises, like the Fallout video games and the Mad Max movies, have their roots in concepts penned by Ellison in the Vic and Blood stories. For that reason alone, Vic and Blood is required reading for any fan of science fiction or horror, but it is also just a great collection.