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Kiln People
Beth Meacham, David Brin

I Have No Mouth

I Have No Mouth - Harlan Ellison It is a terrible mistake to assume that everybody else will love — or at least like — your favorite things, whatever you consider to be an all-time great. This is the most important lesson I have taken away from I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream. I recommended this story to a smart and discerning friend, foolishly expecting her to at least be impressed with it. After she has finished it I was mortified to be informed that she actually hated it! As I value her opinion on literary matters greatly it makes me doubt my own taste and judgment. Still, at the end of the day if you love something you have to stick to your guns, don't you? In cases like this there is no better explanation than that we can't all like the same things.

I haven't read this story for years, so I decided to reread it expressly for the purpose of writing this review, it only takes about 30 minutes to read after all. I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream is a an extremely bleak post-apocalypse and dystopian story. In the future depicted in this story, mankind is ruled by a demented and extremely cruel A.I. overlord. Mankind, in this case, consists of just five people; one girl and four men, imprisoned underground within the mega-computer itself. The rest of humanity have already been wiped out by the crazed AI, the cause of its insanity is best left unrevealed here. The five humans are saved by the AI for its sadistic amusement, to assuage its craving for revenge against mankind for a perceived mortal offense. The five humans are tortured, debased and humiliated daily. They are also kept alive and made practically immortal to prolong their suffering indefinitely.

This is a horrifying and disturbing story. My friend mentioned that the prose is leaden and I suppose it may be, but I find that Harlan Ellison's narrative packs a real punch. The ending is particularly creepy and unforgettable. I don't know what it says about me that I am in awe of such a nasty story, I just love stories that have a strong psychological or emotional impact. It also raises the issue of our over-reliance on technology, a theme it shares with E.M. Forster’s [b: The Machine Stops|4711854|The Machine Stops |E.M. Forster|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1347943820s/4711854.jpg|4776249], a much more gentle apocalypse. There is also the matter of allowing our creation to go out of control for the sake of our greed or lust for power.

If you want to read this classic sci-fi story online just Google the title. You will probably find it in a few seconds. I doubt it is in the public domain so I'd better not post a link.

At the risk of recommending something you will hate, I highly recommend this story. I never learn!

Note: I'm just reviewing the one story, not the entire anthology in this book. I don't have the book!