The Prowler in the City at the Edge of the World • 1967 • SF Horror novelette by Harlan Ellison

★★★

Synopsis:  Serial killer Jack the Ripper appears in an utopian sterile futuristic city, committing one of his famous killings, returning to 1888 Whitechapel district in London where he continues killing. People from the future inhabit his mind to enjoy and comment the show like in a splatter movie. Recalled to the future, he runs havoc.

Review: When I read the story, it was taken out of context. Originally, it appeared in Ellison’s famous anthology Dangerous Visions which revolutionized SF in the late 1960s. There, it was a sequel to Robert Bloch’s „A Toy for Juliette“ where Jack the Ripper and Marquise de Sade’s Juliette are similarly set into a dystopic future. Ellison contrasted Bloch’s more suggestive narration with his graphic, and even poetic style. Some reviewers consider it as a kind of fan fiction. The Victorian London is contrasted with the futuristic city, and both are linked by the verbatim reported and extremely bloody acts by the killer. Although it is known that they happened in real, you have to stomach that narrative – I despise horror, and this is just splatter – so one star less for that one. Nethertheless, you can only admire the emotive, aggressive way Ellison expresses the acts, trying to shock and entertain his readers. The shock doesn’t come from the murders but from the nihilistic morale, the sociopathic voyeurs of the future which can be linked to our contemporary splatter movies.

Don’t miss the excellent discussion at the Ellison forum with loads of additional insights.

Meta: isfdb. This novelette appeared 1967 in Ellison’s anthology Dangerous Visions. I’ve read it in German in his collection Ich muss schreien und habe keinen Mund.

 

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